Going into the new year, these are the headline figures we are wrapping our heads around:
100% Online advertising space is saturated: ROIs decline
30% Increase in worldwide use of Adblocking Software 
60% Online Ads don’t reach customers 
It seems like everyone is trying to play catch up in the digital space, as companies scramble to bolster their e-marketing teams, up their budgets, get influencers on board, become content producers to engage their social media audience. These strategies are seen as new, exciting, potentially very effective and most of all, terrifying. We all know of the success stories, but the vast majority find that the benefits don’t match up to the hype. The reason is simple: technologies change, but the fundamentals of marketing don’t. Put another way: there is no difference between traditional commerce and e-commerce: there is just commerce. Or again: technologies change, but real human connections do not. There is no technological magic bullet to solving that riddle. Commerce depends on only one thing, that your value proposition is sound — and if it is, you connect. If it is not, forget the bold, beautiful, pervasive facebook ads. They are a waste of energy and money.
The question still remains: what are the most effective ways of reaching new customers? Digital advertising platforms promise segmentation, tracking and analytics impossible to conceive of before. Such is the power of this granular approach to marketing that a questionably specialized industry of pundits has spruted around it: A/B testing of ads with/without commas, marketing departments geared solely to promoting online presence. Are these efforts bearing fruit? In a narrow sense, yes. But in relation to the overall picture, the answer is no. For the most part, companies blame themselves for the lack of results, the rising costs and declining ROIs. But the online bubble has reached saturation, viewers are either actively shutting off your advertisements, or passively ignoring them. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but when everyone around you is chasing digital excellence, you think you must do the same — and if you don’t get the results you are looking for, the simple answer is: do more. It happens to be the wrong answer.
As marketers, advertisers and salespeople, you’re asking for people’s time — and no one has any time to give you. We’re attention Merchants, as Tim Wu (the Columbia lawyer of “net neutrality” fame) has brilliantly described the enduring rudiments of the trade [source]. If you want new customers, you have to get people’s attention, and advertisement has always been about intrusion, robbing people of their time and space, shoving yourself in their face. All marketers know this, most just don’t want to admit it. But business models depend on how successful you are at it, and the growth of your company lives by it. But not at any cost. You don’t gain customers when you annoy them, you lose them, often irreparably. The same dynamics of multiplication work for good experiences as they do for bad ones. The stakes are high to get it right, so if in doubt, don’t do it at all. Let me explain.
David Ogilvy once quipped:
I have never seen a landscape improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard.
Ogilvy’s idiosyncratic views of OOH advertisement apply equally to the digital landscape. And here lies the paradox of content marketing. Consumers are online for the content, not for the advertisements, and the degree of their enjoyment is inversely proportional to the intrusiveness of your marketing efforts. Much the same might be said of what now goes for “influencer” marketing — just a newfangled terms for using famous personalities to peddle your goods:
Testimonials from celebrities get high recall scores but I have stopped using them because people remember the celebrity but forget the product. What’s more, people assume the celebrity has been bought, which is usually the case
To sum up, in Ogilvy’s words once again:
the consumer is not a moron
There is no change in the rules that govern good marketing, even though the channels and the technologies that make them accessible are always in evolution. Balancing boldness and tact remains an art, in digital strategies as in traditional ones. The essentials remain the same: your value proposition.
And don’t annoy your potential customers, ever. They’ll ignore you, and would you have guessed, an online advertisement is a darn lot easier to ignore than a billboard in real life.