But ads are icky!

Posted on January 26, 2021

Caroline Blaker

But ads are icky! Image

Inc.com is my favorite source for demonstrating over-advertising

Ew, ads. These smarmy influence bits are everywhere and have more formats than we can or care to count. It only gets worse when they're not done very, very well, and even those — the funny, perfectly targeted ones that change your mind — have a sticky sort of pall that hangs over the message.

Here are a few common things we've heard over the years, when a customer is presented with the concept of running an ad:

  • "Not my business/organization!"
  • "We need to avoid all of that grossness to get our message to our audience without the smarm factor."
  • "We are going to focus on organic results, keywording, and engineering our website to pick up fans and customers the upstanding, classic way — and at the same time, save the money."

Petroglyph creative doesn't run ads…yet.

We generally don't need ads to stay busy. Our business travels by word of mouth and we are exceedingly grateful for that. So, to use an overused phrase, "We get it."

However, we surprised ourselves by recommending ads last week to a business like our own. Even crazier, in exploring the ins and outs of this recommendation, we found ourselves defending the use of ads for reasons other than sales increases.

TL:DR;? Ads aren't going anywhere. They also remain an easily visible announcement of sorts, that can be opted into without a lot of trouble. The bottom line: There are ways to use ads that do more than increase your ROI, which may just make it worth your while to get over the perceived "ick" factor.

Your potential customers use ads for research

Ads are unambiguously the most visible way to introduce yourself to strangers. While it may take years to develop the content needed to arrive on the first page of Google, it only takes a few bucks to buy yourself a spot there, if only temporarily. What use does this have if not just to attract rando clicks?

Wait — why pay for rando clicks, again? Put yourself in the shoes of a person looking for information on a new industry. Organic search is likely to be their first go-to for help. You add yourself as a participant of that industry by being present in this space.

Are your products or offerings different from most of your industry? Saying why, in an ad's brief summation, is a strong and effective way to show that other options, YOUR options, are a clear and viable alternative to everyone else.

Case in point: Our client's high-end, medicinal grade product would present as a 400% markup from other similar products in Google Shopping ads. Why should they "compete" there? By adding one product to this array of ads (which is essentially just information), they have the power to change expectations dramatically of anyone looking for that product.

Ultimately, our client is looking to grow a community around a medicinal practice using this product. By showing up in an ad marketplace dominated by hobby-grade products, the mere display of the ad introduces an entirely new option to the shopper or potential shopper.

Those looking for hobby-grade may breeze right on by (especially with that price) but professionals looking for professional-grade tools, for whatever reason, will immediately see that there is an expensive, brand-name option in this scope and be interested in its distinctions. This is where the shopper is introduced to our client, who appears to be the sole provider of this need. And they haven't needed to breeze through pages and pages of providers just to find the high-end thing that they had been truly curious about all along.

Your ad can elevate expectations in your entire industry

If you're looking to prove yourself as a leader in your industry, this is one outcome you simply can't afford to miss. When all of the products in the Google Shopping ads have similar prices and providers, it defines what's available even if other stuff is out there.

Adding even one option, at a much higher or lower price point, opens up the possibility that there is much more out there. Suddenly, the run of the mill previously present is compartmentalized into its own thing (like hobby grade, per above) and no longer has the power to dominate shoppers' scopes defining what is out there. One ad can make this difference.

If one of your goals as a business or an organization is to lead in retail quality or be found by those looking for it, this strategy is a shortcut! But yes — it involves advertising.

Organic Results are kind of icky, too

Top pages are often dominated by brands who have spent thousands to be there and continue to do so for top "organic" spots. The difference here is that all of that is done without the direct involvement of the search engine. As SEO specialists and Content Strategists, our tools (subscriptions, etc.) run us about $8k annually, and that's cheap. Our clients cover that cost and pay us on top of that, which should indicate that the money spent here on organic results and messaging offers significant returns.

Sometimes it's easy to dismiss all advertising as out-of-scope for reasons ranging from budget to effect on brand. Yet a good and effective messaging strategy can include a tiny-but-mighty bit of advertising, where opportunities exist to add key information about products for sale or entire industries that are, effectively, your message.

Petroglyph Creative can help you find these opportunities using visitor data, SEO, and most importantly, your mission and goals. Contact us to set up a meeting and learn about the processes we use to find your opportunities and set you up to take advantage of them.

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