Advertising as Snake Oil. Wanna buy a bottle?

Via Aaron Wall an excellent article post by John Andrews suggesting how difficult it is to find legitimate SEO people among the ocean of pretenders and deceivers. There is some irony here though. This point is not lost on many advertisers who now (correctly) view most SEO people like used car salesmen. However a far more important point has been lost in the SEO quality scandals, and that is the fact that in advertising almost all salespeople and agencies are *absolutely* not to be trusted and generally are misinterpreting flimsy research to their own ends. They are not lying to you, they are simply interpreting results to favor their needs rather than yours. You think not? How many times has your agency recommended they be fired in favor of better teams they know about, or made recommendations that cost your agency big money in favor of your success?

Here’s a good advertiser mantra, and it should be repeated with each campaign:

Trust no one.
Independently verify results.
Change spending according to results.

Incredibly, I think 90% of all advertisers don’t use this approach, preferring to treat advertising salespeople and agencies or magazine and TV research reporters as “marketing” experts which of course they are not. Salespeople make money selling their own stuff, not selling success. As long as advertisers fail to follow up with metrics and/or trust the salesperson/ Agency’s claims it’s impossible for them to appropriately adjust the spend and define failure vs success. I used to think this was a problem only in small business, but it’s clear that even the largest corporations often fail to properly test, preferring (I think bureaucratically) to go with comfortable approaches that can be justified to spending committees.

The extreme failures of print and TV advertising (and other forms) to deliver has fueled the PPC revolution, though even PPC often has a negative ROI and testing is needed. Fortunately for those fortunate advertisers who realize how much better PPC will likely be than other forms of advertising it’s easier and cheaper to measure online advertising successes.

I commented over at John’s:
A simply excellent post John, getting to the heart of the challenge facing SEO customers and providers as well as a possible solution – forms of success metrics that are fairly standardized and/or easy to digest.

But good metrics are a gaping void in advertising and have been for decades. I’m often floored by the ignorance of advertisers who think they can count on salespeople to advise them on the effectiveness of the campaigns, which in my sector of travel are often horrible.

I’d suggest that TV and print salespeople are the most conspicuous deceivers, even more than many SEO pretenders. Although I agree that the overwhelming majority of SEO claims are bogus or deceptive, it’s important for advertisers to realize that even a modest PPC campaign, run themselves, will often outperform *their best print or TV efforts*.

Advertising in all forms, for the most part, is a lie. It often fails and people are too mathematically ignorant to discover the problems and realign the spend.