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44% of people claim advertising doesn’t work on them

May 21, 2012

When I first started working in Advertising, I use to hear it all the time.

“You work in Advertising? That stuff doesn’t work on me.”

On the days I was feeling like an ass, I would point out their brand named clothes and their car. Maybe even the beer or bottled water they were consuming.

Most days I would smile and change the subject.

Marketers want advertising to work, but people don’t. People don’t want to be lead to things. Especially if those things are products that we all know we don’t really need. (Hi Apple)

People like to say ads don’t work, and they really like to say banner ads don’t work. So this isn’t unexpected:

Research: 44% of Facebook users will ‘never’ click sponsored ads

According to this article, a survey of people on Facebook said they would never click on an ad. I feel like I’m at that party with the person telling me advertising doesn’t work.

Ads aren’t just there to be clicked on. They are there to get into your brain.

Surely Coca Cola doesn’t have to advertise. With massive distribution, they merely need to stock shelves. And yet, they do advertise.


Coca-Cola (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why? The reason is that the more people see Coke ads, the better the chance that, when it is time to purchase a soft drink, the default decision is Coke.

Coke wants to make people hyper aware so that at the point of purchase, they win. The ads rarely say “buy a coke”. They never have a price point. They never talk about a sale. They create a feeling and emotion that attempts to be remembered. They want you to be remembered at the time of purchase.

So did the ad work? Sales of Coke would seem to prove they do.

I recently ran a Facebook ad to 6,000 people. The ad ran for two weeks and got 170,000 impressions. About 6,000 people saw the ad 170,000 times in 2 weeks.

Aside from the realization that people spend a lot of time on Facebook, we also realized that hardly anyone clicks. The ad didn’t say click me, but it was still clicked 87 times.

So did it work? That’s a great question. We think the ad impressions help move people to act away from Facebook.

Coke doesn’t expect people to leave 30 Rock to go and buy a Coke because of their ad. We didn’t expect people who are looking at their friend’s status updates to leave and click our ad. Nor should you, notwithstanding the 44% of people who promised they wouldn’t even if you offered a free car for the first 20 people who click.

The headline from the article above could have explained:

44% of people who watch 30 Rock will never leave the show to buy an advertised product.

Makes sense. So does the notion that, as part of an overall strategy, Facebook and LinkedIn ads can generate awareness to the proper target market. Have them work with other stuff, and you get close to getting them working: without a click.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 8:10 am

    Agreed. Ads with graphics / images definitely fall into this category. Text only ads, i.e. Google Adwords style ads, are less effective for creating awareness. So not all ads are equal in this area.

    I’d also say Facebook uses images on some ads that have nothing to do with the product being pitched, those ads are also less effective in my mind as well.

    • Susan warner permalink
      July 8, 2017 3:23 am

      Tim, You are gorgeous .

  2. May 23, 2012 4:11 pm

    Without impression data how do you gauge how effective, at all, the banner ad is?

    • May 24, 2012 8:37 am

      Facebook delivers impression data. Can we infer that because people saw an ad more, they signed up more? Yes. But there might be other factors. With one year’s worth of data doing one new thing, we can make assumptions about how that one thing impacted sign ups.

      That’s what advertisers do. They look at x, put up a billboard, then look at x. One can infer that the billboard impacted x. It isn’t perfect, but we miss far too many opportunities online if we only measure the click. Most people don’t want to be interrupted.

      • May 24, 2012 11:52 am

        That’s a good point regarding inference. My point with the lack of impression data had nothing to do whether or not Facebook was supplying that information but rather the article indicated that very few people clicked on the banner ad at all, hence, there would be no real impression data to analyze. Your analogy regarding billboards was appropriate and clarified the issue that merely being present without requiring interaction is still a powerful marketing tool.

        That reminds me of another article I read somewhere regarding the way advertisers must adapt to the increased use of television DVRs that allow the television viewer to “skip” commercials. In reality, the DVR simply “fast-forwards” through the commercial, providing the viewer with small fractions-of-a-second views of the commercial as it is being skipped. Even this brief glimpse can be utilized by the marketer to increase brand awareness.

  3. December 7, 2013 7:45 pm

    I’d say the reason people buy coke is more to do with the fact that it’s sold everywhere than it is the adverts. I don’t buy things for brands, I buy things for the actual product itself.

    • January 5, 2014 5:13 pm

      People drink labels.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 21, 2014 4:21 am

        People consume products they know and love.Period.

  4. likalaruku permalink
    February 3, 2016 7:44 am

    Ads don’t work on me. I tend to buy products from companies that don’t advertise & actively avoid giving money to companies that advertise too much.

    • Susan warner permalink
      July 8, 2017 3:21 am

      Agree. I make a conscious effort to avoid a brand whose ads annoy me for any reason. I never shop in Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis , Waitrose et al. Their ads are extravagant, patronising, sexist,simplistic and biased. I made a decision to boycott themand I have for many years. I avoid banks who advertise, in fact any financial product i see advertised makes me avoid that product. I wont buy food thats aimed at women ie, low fat foods.If you piss me off Im off for life and you wont get me back.

  5. David Brent permalink
    May 21, 2019 11:35 am

    Just because I bought a product doesn’t mean advertising works, it means I bought a product. If I buy a whopper or whatever I buy it because I am hungry and because Burger King is close by, not because the advertising “worked”. I could just as easily go to Taco Bell, or make a pizza at home. Sometimes we buy things because we need them for survival. Saying that advertising “works” just because someone is holding a product with a brand name is incredibly simplistic and misleading.

    • May 21, 2019 1:04 pm

      You’re right. My point was to show that when people make the claim advertising doesn’t work, they are missing many moments in their life when it does. Sometimes you buy a burger because you’re hungry, all times there’s a burger king close is because the brand has convinced people to purchase a franchise. There is a burger kind close for a few reasons:
      1. They have a well-known brand. You and I know what we’ll get when we go in. We know what a Whopper is.
      2. They make money for the franchise owner (see #1)

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts.


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