Atom Bombs, Fields of Spears, and a Billion Tiny Fish Hooks

Marketing is a battlefield. The concept isn’t quite sexy enough for Pat Benetar to write songs about, but it is funny to see how marketing concepts are often best described by violent even war-like terms.

In a recent article on the evolution of advertising published in the July 6th 2006 print edition of The Economist, Rishad Tobaccowala, the “chief innovation officer” of Publicis, one of the world’s biggest advertising groups, and boss of Denuo, a Chicago-based unit within Publicis with the job of probing the limits of new advertising models, likens traditional advertising to “an atom bomb dropped on a big city.” He goes on to compare and contrast online advertising options as enabling advertisers to “make lots of spearheads and then get people to impale themselves,” okay, ouch, but I get it.

Offline advertisers today have grown dependant on building highly expensive “atom bombs” of advertising for their offline objectives. The down side of this dependency is that atom bombs produce short term effects (increasing frequency and cost) that also produce massive amounts of waste (more added cost). The collateral damage, errantly blasting as much as 50%-90% unintended targets with money, is considered acceptable because of the overall effect – a short term spike in awareness and hopefully sales. By contrast online marketing, or setting up large fields of spear-laced traps for people to drop on, is cheap, highly efficient, and will continue to find victims…umm… errrr… customers repeatedly for as long as the trap-field is maintained.

The general theme of the article is that recent online advertising innovations are pointing to major strategic shifts in marketing, and the big advertisers along with their agencies are beginning to realize that the Internet will be used more for offline objectives in the very near future. Out of sheer pressure to continually increase the bottom line, companies will always gravitate to cheaper and more efficient methods of accomplishing the primary objective: increase sales and grow. And this supports why I place such a priority on educating our industry about Offline Affiliate Marketing.

But if offline uses of online advertising are really as important as I and this article suggest, wouldn’t we see the online giants investing and developing new ways to take advantage of the next big push in online advertising? Oh wait, we are.

The Economist article identified Google correctly as, “the world’s most valuable online advertising agency disguised as a web-search engine.” Coincidentally, as it was pointed out in an earlier post here on Revenews, that Google recently filed a patent application for distributing offline coupons through web enabled channels. Hmmm. Let’s see, Google built Froogle (“Shop for items to buy online and at local stores”)..they’re developing geo-based local search directly into google mapping… and they now are attempting to patent (also known as “protect”) a key “fish hook” technology to deliver coupons, the primary sales triggers used by shoppers on and off the net.

What could they be up to? It couldn’t possibly be a pay-for-sale offline advertising solution using the power and reach of Google to create a billion tiny consumer fish hooks on PCs, kiosks, and mobile devices? Could it? Does Google’s developments in offline advertising applications seem like random R&D or a coordinated effort to be on the leading edge of an important new shift in online advertising?

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