August 17, 2015 Last Updated 1:09 pm

When the power of 1 is greater than that of 10, or even 100

The prospect of an increase in ad blocker usage may prove to be the opportunity many publishers have been looking for, a chance to prove the effectiveness of their brands

The best sales person in your organization will tell you: a client that can trace one good sale to the advertising they have run with your publication is more satisfied that the client who is told their ads have generated a ton of page views (and clicks).

This a lesson I learned long ago when speaking to a client who was complaining about the response they received from their weekend’s quarter page ad, only to be interrupted by a customer who said they saw their ad in that weekend’s paper and wanted to buy the product being advertised. The advertiser could only smile and leave to help their new customer.

(Ask a car dealer if they would rather have a showroom filled with unqualified buyers, or just ten customers, are qualified to buy a new car? Ask a realtor the value of one qualified buyer showing up at an open house versus a house full of lookie lous. Point: volume doesn’t always trump the value of one, good new customer.)

Ad manYou probably remember the man in chair ad from McGraw-Hill: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your company” , etc. (McGraw-Hill doesn’t like sites showing the ad, though it is all over the Internet, so screw ’em, I won’t link to their site.)

Eventually the man says “Now – what was it you wanted to sell me?”

The point is that the client needs to know the sales person, their company, their product, and trust it, before they will buy. Media companies are forgetting this basic lesson as they pursue ever higher web traffic at the expense of developing reader trust. Vast amounts of traffic lead to more page views, but they also lead to lower ad rates and advertisers buying the media properties as part of a giant mass purchase.

But even as media executives push to generate ever higher web traffic numbers, the prospect of ad blocking may work against them.

But while I have argued that readers may not en masse move to ad blockers, I would also argue that even if they did, it might present the kind of opportunity publishers have been looking for. If advertisers begin to see that readers are blocking their obnoxious advertising, they may be forced to return to more focused campaigns, and they will need to partner with publishers to create and run these.

clickbaitAd blockers may prevent readers from seeing pop-up ads, auto-play videos, and other javascript-based advertising, but it won’t prevent publishers from having sponsored sections, direct placed ads (as opposed to ad network delivered) and native advertising. What ad blockers can do is put a dent in the growth of easily delivered, mindlessly created, advertising. But it won’t prevent Caterpillar from sponsoring your new construction equipment section, or Chase from placing a direct ad in your business section. Ad blockers won’t block advertising that readers feel is actually desirable content.

And that goes back to the point I made last week: readers don’t actually hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising. Every fashion magazine is filled with ads readers love to read, just as every successful B2B magazine is packed with ads from those in the industry being covered. Advertisements are a big part of why a reader picks up certain titles.

Newspapers forgot this when they allowed classifieds to migrate online to third parties. The problem, as I see it as a former CAM, is not that the ads left their print products, but that they lost contact with the businesses and private parties that placed the ads. By letting start-ups and digital partners have the relationship with the clients and readers they lost far more than just ad dollars.

In order to take advantage of a situation where advertisers value sales over page views, market share gains over clicks, publishers will have to be able to measure results. They will have to learn the ad game from the brand’s perspective rather than the agency’s. This won’t be easy. It has been tough enough for some sales staffs to adjust to digital media, in general. Learning what a particular brand marketer’s goals are requires more direct selling, less reliance on the media agency’s recommendations. That will be difficult, but it is also a return to what many print ad buyers did for years. A return, if you will, to more comfortable and familiar sales presentations. Just now the products being sold are digital – you targeted, effective digital brand, against mass market digital brands.

But publishers should know how to win that game. After all, how often did Engineering News-Record ever lose an ad from an estimating software company to The Dating Game? The reps knew how to present a targeted buy, one that would generate better sales results than simply placing an ad into a media property with mass appeal?

Feature photo (home page) by Spacebird Designs, licensed under NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

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