Published November 26th, 2015
by Swanchita Haze

If, like me, you’re forced to waste hours every week reading research reports and think pieces on what makes advertising effective, you’ll know that the only things that matter are content and audience. Except they aren’t. As an industry we’re so busy collectively soiling ourselves over the rise of ad blocking, and trying to make the most of all those morally questionable data collection options we can before they’re closed off, that we’ve forgotten what made advertising effective in the first place – context.

Now, as we know, from that history of advertising viral video (aka the only way we can take in information now), that print ads are where it all kicked off in the 19th century, with dry notices in newspapers promoting books and other newspapers. Eventually the medium evolved, and we were all graced with excellent illustrations of dashing men endorsing moustache wax, and questionable coffee/spanking promotions. Print ads proved popular and brands noticed that they worked, so other mediums quickly came into play. Radio soaps gained huge popularity with women, and ad agencies realised that they could reach them directly in their homes while they were worrying desperately about how clean their house was and which colour of lipstick husband would like. They offered just the products these delicate creatures needed to solve their problem in exactly the place they wanted it.

Now, we live in an age where your average consumer has access to everything they want at anytime they want it, and if your ad is the only thing standing in the way of their ability to get it, then your brand has a problem.

Now that advertising has become the de facto way of funding the internet, it’s become a constant, ceaseless barrage of colours, shapes and white noise wherever we go – and as advertisers, vendors and programmatic vendors battle over CPM, ad size and format, and whether videos should autoplay (they should never autoplay) context feels like it has been removed from the conversation. Advertisers are better than ever at being able to reach the exact customer you want to reach, but if they’re doing it in the wrong place at the wrong time, then the most sophisticated ad copy in the world won’t convince them that the brand flashing before them is anything but a giant pain in the arse.

I’m a user, a consumer, a marketer and a woman, so I fit into some of the most coveted user demographics for brands. I’m also highly unlikely to stop playing a game to sign up to your newsletter, and I’m certainly not going to interrupt an evening alone with some moonlight, candles, and attractive naked people having adult fun to download your stupid white paper.

In fact, pornography taught us one of the best lessons in contextual advertising I’ve seen in a long time. Eat24’s display campaign on pornhub brought ads for sandwiches to the, umm, worn out masses. And the subsequent stats spoke for themselves:

  • 90% lower CPM than Google Display Network, Facebook and twitter
  • New customer retention rates four times higher than Facebook
  • Three times the total impressions of Facebook, GDN and twitter combined
  • Tens of thousands of orders, with clear spikes during times ads were live on Pornhub

Why was this campaign such a success? They made the ad fit the experience.

So why have advertisers forgotten this?

Marketers – if you don’t sell sandwiches you’ll just need to use your imagination and find your own bit of context. Trying to grab a slice of that lucrative pocket money market? Get on YouTube in the golden hours between 3 and 6pm, when little Calvin or Calendula are watching strangers play Minecraft while their parents bask in the peaceful glow of the temporary distraction.  And games like Candy Crush are just lousy with our mums, our aunties, their friends, and also your dad when he takes the iPad to the toilet. He thinks no one knows, despite all the invitations his Facebook sends out. You really should show him how to turn them off you know. You are such a disappointment to your parents.

You get the idea. You can refine your images and pester the hell out of your golden target audience all you want, but context is the only thing that matters to the people looking at the ads. Next time you’re tempted to ignore contextual placement on ad campaigns, remember where you go online, and where you’re actually receptive to relevant marketing messages. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to order a sandwich.

Note: This post originally appeared on the Habanero Digital blog meaning certain parts are probably weirdly self referential or talk about ongoing feuds that probably exist almost exclusively in the mind of the author.

Advertising Digital
Swanchita Haze

by Swanchita Haze

The true identity of Swanchita is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We receive her blog submissions written by hand using ink on parchment, delivered by a small Dickensian orphan boy.

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