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5 reasons why online marketing sucks

August 24, 2010

An animated TV advertisement
Image via Wikipedia

Okay, you might disagree, but take a look around the web. I mean, five years ago, all you saw where flashing monkeys. Banner ads are still the most obnoxious things on the planet, and e-mail is called Spam. Websites are generally boring, and don’t get me started on flash sites that forever to load.

Why? Why does it all suck? (He asks, painting with a wide brush). Here are my five reasons:

1. The speed of adoption

Here’s a newsflash. Print ads in their early days sucked. So did TV spots (Soap Opera anyone?). TV and Print had time to evolve before they reached a mass level. Television was available commercially in 1930. It wasn’t until 1950 and the quiz show scandals that TV moved to a more magazine like approach to Television. And even then, television wasn’t ubiquitous. This gave marketers a chance to play.

In contrast, the word wide we launched in 1991, less than 20 years ago. Mass adoption of the internet in the US took less than 20 years. Marketers just didn’t have time. But that’s a bit of a dodge, because it implies it’s not their fault. And it is. So moving on.

2. Pay per click.

I don’t mean Google’s wonderful pay-per-click, that’s a wonderful thing. I mean that early on, banner ads found their way into the hands of direct marketers who sold them as wonderful direct response units of advertising. The concept was simple for online websites. Marketers would pay them when people clicked the ads.

Think about that for a minute. I write this blog post that brings eyeballs. Some nerd writes “Click me for my widget” on an ad, and I only get paid when someone clicks it? It’s nonsense, and when click rates dropped, it partly lead to the collapse of the first web.

3. Websites for no real reason.

It’s 1997. A client walks into the agency I worked at:

Client: We need a website.

Us: Sure. Why?

Client: Because the other guy has one. We need a website.

Us: Okay. That will be $100,000.

Websites were the first marketing tools that didn’t have a marketing goal. Of course the vast majority would suck. The cost of entry was minimal, and the profit was immense. All over the country businesses big and small where trying to get one of these new fangled websites. To put one up, one needed only Microsoft Front Page (ugh, it hurt trying that in) and a bit of time.

4. E-mail marketing.

There was a time, for a bout 5 minutes that people tried to do e-mail marketing right. Then, all hell broke loose. Partly because of that little function on early e-mail that send an email back to the sender when an e-mail was open.


E-mail lists could be build by spidering those new fangled website thingys that posted e-mail addresses. A quick e-mail to that person, who opened it, and boom. You’ve got a verified current list of e-mails. Spam away mother f-ers!

If you came onto the web before spam filters, but after spammers, then you remember the sheer hell of sorting your inbox. You also remember the anger since you paid for dialup by the freaking hour, and the damn e-mails took an hour to sort through to find the ones from your friends.

5. The consumer is tantalizingly close

In other marketing communications pieces, we know the consumer can’t respond right then and there. For the most part, they are sitting on the couch, driving the car, or otherwise occupied. They can’t buy stuff. But in online, they are one click away from the store front that cost $100,000 to build. One click! Surely people will click on a flashing monkey?

This notion that the customer is so close to responding is responsible for how crap the ads are. Instead of telling a story, they demand an interaction. If banner ads where people in a store, they would run up to you as soon as you walked in, demanding that you buy shit.

When you really think about, it’s amazing we’re even here. It’s amazing the whole thing didn’t crash on the weight of utter crapiness. But it didn’t. And while some of these problems still exist (I need a Facebook page is the new I need a website), there’s hope for the internet.

A little strategy. A little creativity. And we just might have something here.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2010 5:10 am

    Ever since Apple came out with the IPod, there has been nothing but excitement for the future of digital music players. Even though Apple still rules this marketplace, there are other MP3 players that are out there for you to use as well. Some of these MP3 players also let you carry around more digital files than just music. They will let you use the device as a thumb drive storage system as well. This is very convenient but it can also have a downside that comes with it. With the ability to use the devices in this manner, they can also be used to spread malware to other systems. This is why you must be careful when you load different files into these MP3 players. Even some of the MP3 files that you load into system may be carrying malware in them

  2. August 30, 2010 3:30 pm

    Matt, got a kick out of your post. Rather then post the response as a reply I created a post on my blog:

    Thanks for putting out some real thought provoking content.

    Good Hunting.

  3. August 30, 2010 5:33 pm

    good post..great share, great to read it


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