Ads are the bane of many. Well, maybe not that extreme, but it’s safe to say that people would rather avoid them as much as possible. They are everywhere, cluttering up pages, blocking content, and even redirecting us to different, unrelated pages. People go to great lengths to not see ads, jailbreaking devices to install blocking software, downloading multiple extensions, using TiVo, and many more tools that kill commercials.
With over 50 million users on Chrome, and over 365 million downloads on Firefox, Adblocker Plus is the most popular extension on many browsers. However, they have recently setup a whitelist to enable certain businesses ads to still be shown. uBlock is a much better alternative to utilize if you are currently not running any adblocking extensions.
Over the years there have been many attempts to get around ad blockers with some sites actually refusing to allow users to view content and others simply pleading with people who use ad blockers to turn them off. But users haven’t budged, and it’s gotten so bad that the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Senior Vice President Scott Cunningham has said “We messed up” admitting that their tactics were obnoxious and alienating to users.
Websites and the businesses that own them depend greatly on the income provided by ad revenue, but with people running from ads screaming, website developers are going to need to think up some new tactics. The old technique of shoving banners in people’s faces and forcing users to search for the button too close to them isn’t going to work anymore. Fortunately, there are alternative advertising solutions that have emerged over the years and continue to evolve as time progresses.
Branded Promotional Products
People love to get free stuff. Promotional products have been in marketing forever as it’s always been a great way to make your business a household name.
One might think that t-shirts and pens with a company’s logo would be enough, but there needs to be more thought put into it to maximize the effect. Many things must be considered when choosing products that will carry and represent your brand. The change purses that you get sometimes from a bank or key chains from a locksmith are good examples.
One of the more clever ways to advertise to people is to frame the advertisement in such a fashion that people see it as entertainment or informational. Native advertising is sponsored content that fits in with the content produced by the staff of the website it is on. Good native advertising is unobtrusive and highly relevant, so you don’t really notice it as an ad, and it looks like it belongs there.
A great example can be found on Foursquare’s advertising platform. People use Foursquare to find businesses in their area, to there’s nothing odd about being presented with paid ad for a nearby pizza place when searching for restaurants on the app. Another example is the post that ran on the NY Times website on women in the correctional system that reminded readers about the upcoming second season of Orange Is The New Black. The article is highly useful as it is full of facts about the issues women face in prison. That’s the key, useful and factual.
Social media campaigns
90% of internet users between the ages of 18 – 29 have social media accounts, the marketing “sweet spot” demographic. The Ice Bucket Challenge is the perfect example of the power of social media campaigns. It surpassed everyone’s expectations and raised $220 million for their cause. Creating viral campaigns has never been more powerful with the growing number of Internet users.
There’s a lot of planning that has to go into a social media campaign. Like anything in business, you can’t just jump in without preparation and clearly defined goals. Your campaign has to flow with what your organization stands for and is built around what you do. Artifact Uprising’s simple #TellOn concept asks people to use the hashtag and they will post the best on their site. Since they sell photo books and the like, it’s perfectly in line with what they do, and doesn’t require much effort on the part of those participating, which is exactly what a social media drive should be.
Of course, for the social media angle to work, websites need to be optimized for it to maintain a following and encourage sharing of content. It’s highly recommended by design experts as one of the things a site needs regardless of how you decide to market.
Alternate Reality Games (ARG)
It sounds like something out of a Star Trek episode, but alternate reality games have produced some truly amazing results. It’s played out in the real world with clues laid out in the form of a kind of scavenger hunt. Claiming to be a part of the real world, players to work with one another to solve puzzles that would be too obtuse or complex to put in a videogame. It’s been incredibly successful at promoting products over the years.
There was an ARG called “I Love Bees” or ILB for short and was a promotion for the game Halo 2. It started out with an appropriately called site, ilovebees.com. As the storyline goes, the website gets taken over by a rogue AI that effectively shut down the site. It then displayed the time left to the impending invasion and 210 sets of random numbers with no additional clues. The players then had to figure out what they all meant. Fairly quickly, people realized the numbers were coordinates and times they'd receive a call at a payphone. None of the 210 phone calls were missed, not even the one that took place in Florida in the middle of a hurricane.
Upon the conclusion of the game, players were invited to play an early version of Halo 2 in theaters. Halo 2 set a record of $125 million on its first day as a result of the massive publicity the ARG generated. ARGs have the potential to drive hundreds of thousands to your product, as participants will be already invested.
These solutions are a new way for internet advertisers to better reach their audience that has learned to fear and revile ads. They engage customers far more than telling people “buy this” and are far more likely to convert. The cold approach isn’t working anymore as people have learned to tune it out or avoid it entirely. As the traditional ad dies, it will be interesting to see what smart marketers come up with next.