Why are so many online ads so awful? Well, they are, aren’t they? I don’t include in this blanket condemnation those YouTube ads that are long-form versions of regular TV ads, or those TV or regular print executions that finish up online via social media sites, or indeed are placed there deliberately.
But the rest? In my own limited universe of sites visited there’s the one with the guy staring out to sea or walking along a white sandy beach whilst considering his investment portfolio; the many inappropriate invitations to claim for industrial injuries; the tedious banner ads that confuse a flashing, repetitive image with an idea; and the tweets from venerable institutions trying to appear somehow “modern” by using expressions like OMG. I imagine someone with some pretence to being a professional writes these – unless the client’s marketing intern has been playing with the various offerings that let anyone create their own ad from a mix and match template.
There’s a serious point to be made: By and large the creative industry has not come to terms with how to speak online. Yes, I know there are some great exceptions but in general the ads just aren’t very good. It’s almost as if it has been decreed that online is just direct response, or leaflet drops for the modern age; or that it’s a rather cacky medium not worthy of real creative consideration.
At the same time we seem to have mislaid our belief in the skill of creative people. It is commonly said that everyone is an expert in two things – his own profession and advertising. What we’re seeing online is that thought given shape, as the (non) experts take over the creative process.
Coming up with, even recognizing an original, powerful idea is not easy. I was once asked to judge a creative competition, along with several professional creatives (no, I don’t know why either). I read all the material, made my choices in private and then went to an excruciating (for me) meeting in which every judge bar one agreed on what was a good idea and what wasn’t. The “bar one” was consistent in every instance. My two saving graces were first that I sensibly chose to speak last each time; and secondly I really couldn’t disagree with what the others were saying. It was simply that I didn’t have the skills to spot the points they were all making.
But now everyone is not only an expert, they’re given the canvass to demonstrate their expertise, or lack of it.
Whatever happened to original creative thought; to teamwork with delivery mechanism and creative idea working hand-in-glove? What about the common-sense mantra that just as the best creative work in history is useless if nobody sees it, so the best and well thought out communication plan is equally worthless if the message the audience sees is so mundane that nobody pays it the slightest attention.
Whilst teamwork happens (to a greater or lesser extent) in traditional media, the output seems to suggest it is less common online. It could be that we haven’t yet found the key to effective online communication. Certainly social media forms (where so many of the worst examples are to be found) are more about building and nurturing relationships than about brand advertising, but then again advertising has a proud tradition of building relationships between brands and consumers. It just seems that those with the best ideas are not practicing their craft online.
I might not be great at spotting great conceptual ideas, but I can spot a turkey a mile off and at the moment online boasts more turkeys than Bernard Matthews.
Brian Jacobs spent over 35 years in advertising, media and research agencies including spells at Leo Burnett (UK, EMEA, International Media Director), Carat International (Managing Director), Universal McCann (EMEA Director) and Millward Brown (EVP, Global Media). He has worked in the UK, EMEA and globally out of the USA. His experience covers shifts from full-service ad agencies to media agencies; from traditional single-commercial-channel TV to multi-faceted digital channels; and from media planning to multi-disciplinary communication planning. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all Brian Jacobs' MediaBizBloggers commentaries at The Cog Blog.
Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com
Follow our Twitter updates at @MediaBizBlogger
The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.