Tone of voice | Pauhu Translations' marketing blog

Badly targeted ads harm credibility

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A large retail store sends me a weekly newsletter with subjects such as "Products just for you"! You might think that the advertiser would know my preferences based on two decades of holding their loyalty card, but no! Not one of their popsicles, bags of potato chips, sausage packs or Coco Pops have found their way into our household’s shopping cart in over fifteen years.

A few inaccuracies would be acceptable – but when there isn’t one single interesting product on the list, it just seems like junk mail. When the expectations for a personal approach are high, errors hit the wrong spot much harder – which harms the advertiser’s image.

Inaccurate targeting can also be seen when using various devices. Browser-based analytics can’t keep up with my shopping habits. I often compare alternatives on my tablet computer but actually purchase the service on my laptop. Some offers appearing in my tablet computer’s browser or – even worse – in my email  – have already expired. This is really frustrating!

I think the most unpleasant ads are the ones where a company’s Facebook fans are obliged to tell others about their “likes” – “(Your friends) A, B and C like service X”. Many are not aware that they have given their permission for their names to be used. When they find out about the advertiser’s activities, almost everyone removes their “likes” for the service’s Facebook Page – and conceivably in real life as well. Unpleasant advertising eats away at the advertiser’s image as well as at people’s attitude towards advertising in general.

In Finland, 65 per cent of the population relate positively to advertising, whilst 22 per cent react negatively to ads. The common objective of the marketing communications field must certainly be to preserve or improve this situation, instead of increasing negativity with inappropriate approaches.

Digitalization has brought us many good things, but it isn’t smart to do everything just because it’s technically possible. An appealing and interesting advertisement certainly stands out from the crowd to a receptive audience. In that case, an ad doesn’t offend or irritate – even if the product itself isn’t particularly interesting to the individual.  

As old-fashioned as it may sound, Finns consider printed newspapers the most attractive advertising channel. Up to 43 per cent of Finns would prefer to receive their advertising in printed newspapers. The second most attractive channel, television, is supported by 12 per cent of the population. Social media services lag far behind, even with regard to young people.

Although people spend a considerable amount of time on social media, it’s not currently considered to be the best advertising channel. This has been confirmed by a number of research studies, such as the Finnish National Media Survey, the Community-reinforcing Media Report or even Kari Elkelä’s doctoral thesis. However, when we consider the targets of increasing interest among advertisers in the Advertising Barometer Survey, printed media clearly appears to be falling, whereas social media is increasing vigorously. The hopes and wishes of Finnish people and the intentions of advertisers are diametrically opposed to each other.

If the question was about more than sales and the resulting sustained increase of net sales, jobs and well-being of people, this would be fun. However, at the moment it’s just sad. Can advertisers really afford to irritate people by seeking their attention in ways that they don’t want at all?

Have the sales results really been so wonderful and sustainable that dislikers are simply free to go? It would be a good idea to have an open discussion on real short- and long-term results.

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