Insights /

Nobody cares about your ads

17 min read

Online retailers are spending more and gaining less. Digital ad costs are eating up budgets and putting performance marketing models in jeopardy.

It’s a hard pill to swallow but figure this.

How many people do you know who enjoy ads that interrupt their favourite show?

How many people do you know who don’t skip YouTube ads or glaze over sponsored posts?

Since 2009, browser extension Adblock Plus (used for blocking video ads and banners) has been downloaded over 500 million times, making it one of the most popular Chrome extensions ever.

With Apple’s relentless war on tracking and the rise of premium VPNs like Surfshark and NordVPN, it appears that people not only avoid ads, they’re PAYING for the opportunity to keep them at bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I work in marketing. I love brands. I read food labels and street signs and billboards for fun. I buy books filled with adverts to nerd out over beautiful design and meticulously crafted copy.

But as marketers, we’re the minority. Most people don’t care what you’re selling. It’s not because they’re mean – they’re just busy dealing with the rest of their lives. 

You love your product, but it’s going to take more than a flashing banner or Facebook ad to convince your audience to love it too.

In their 2022 Future of Commerce Trends Report, Shopify highlights two trends that paint the same picture.

Direct-to-consumer competition is rising

It’s never been easier to set up an online business, and they’re all competing for attention. 

Fewer barriers to entry = more online retailers = more ads.

Competition is the biggest obstacle to achieving growth in 2022, according to the 350 global commerce decision makers they surveyed.

Advertising costs are skyrocketing across platforms

Online retailers are spending more and gaining less. Digital ad costs are eating up budgets and putting performance marketing models in jeopardy.

The cost per click for paid search ads increased by 15% between the second and third quarters of 2021 alone.

Thankfully, in the same report, Shopify offers some solutions – one in particular I think can’t be ignored.

Rising acquisition costs are forcing businesses to play the long game and invest in their brand

In other words, businesses are overcoming these challenges by spending money on their brand.

It turns out that strong brands spend less on paid ads, make more organic sales, retain more customers, and can raise prices – the most powerful lever you can pull to increase profits.

Great, but what exactly is brand building?

Brand building is the process of defining the brand, its approach, and the elements needed to achieve its goals. 

The more clearly a brand communicates its difference, values, and offer, the more likely people are to adopt it – and the easier it is to be consistent.

As the digital space becomes more crowded, a clearly-defined brand strategy is one of the most important investments a startup can make.

Two tactics that have stood the test of time:

1. Find your difference

If you haven’t got one, make one. And make it clear. Think Don Draper “It’s Toasted”.

2. Make it funny, sexy, interesting, obscure, informative or controversial

Anything, as long as it’s not safe. The road to mediocrity is paved with safe decisions.

Canned water brand Liquid Death is a playbook for how to stand out in busy markets.

Advertising is above all, a transaction. Consumers donate time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, the best brands give them something worthy of their gift.

Brands that get noticed have empathy – a skill that is required of all artists and entrepreneurs that allows them to connect with people.

It’s the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your point of view as creator, to the point of view of your imagined consumer.

Ask yourself with every word; Is this interesting? Is this fun or challenging or inventive? Am I speaking their language? Are they bored? Do I understand what matters to them? Am I giving them a nice hot water bottle or a dressed up sales pitch?

If you want people to care about your ads, make that transaction worthwhile.