Selling Advertising

It’s good to take a step back from things and appreciate the upside of progress. For example, in marketing, the twin luxuries of targeting and tracking in advertising.

We didn’t used to have targeting like we do now. We guessed a lot. We studied the media guides to guess who we’d be reaching if we advertised in one magazine or another, or the newspaper, or radio. Only the huge companies could afford to advertise over the major media, where they’d reach millions of undifferentiated people.  You could do that only if a lot of those millions were potential customers, which was true only for big general consumption items like foodstuffs, insurance, and toothpaste. The rest of us had to struggle with what research we could afford, the media kits, and educated guesses.

And tracking? We’d try to ask callers, on the phone, where they’d heard about us. Only a third would have an answer, and of those, less than half made any sense. We used to use the little media response cards in those magazines that offered them, so that one in a thousand readers could punch the card and send it back to the magazine, which would compile the information and send us addresses, where we’d send literature.

Seth Godin’s latest post, Selling advertising, is a reminder for me of how good we have it these days, basically because of these twin luxuries: targeting and tracking. He divides advertising into the “rational kind” and the “glamorous kind.” He defines rational advertising as “advertising that works … measurable direct advertising.” The rest of advertising, “the kind that people think of when they think of Super Bowl or Time Magazine,” doesn’t work.

It’s hard to argue with that today. Why settle for less when you can get targeting and tracking? I  also think that, in a world plagued with the downside of progress (global warming comes to mind quickly, I don’t want to dwell on what else), we should at least pause and note it when we see the upside. Advertising used to be very different from what it is now.

— Tim


  • Omar Passons says:

    This was interesting. I didn’t get into the shuttle business to sell advertising, but since I’m going to do it anyway, it’s nice to find good material. Thanks

  • Jeff Blake says:

    “Rational” is a good way to describe those types of advertising that can provide reliable targeting and measurable tracking. I would describe most of my clients as rational business owners who want to make rational decisions that they can feel confident about. I created my advertising service with these business owners in mind. The company, Altavert, exists to let commuters advertise for you. My clients can target the specific neighborhoods in which they want to advertise, and I place my clients’ ads on the personal vehicles of people that live and work in these markets. Then through GPS, phone, and internet-based tracking, I provide proof of performance to my clients, so they know the return on their investment. In today’s economic environment, to have any real success in selling advertising, the twin luxuries come standard, but in order to retain clients and convince new ones to part with their money, you also have to provide superior service, above all. Thanks for the post,

    – Jeff Blake, CEO
    Altavert Alternative Advertising

  • Adpage George says:

    I wish somebody could tell me how to get Internet Advertising to take off the same way the cell phones took off in South Africa.

    Currently marketing sms's fly around but I seriously doubt if they can convert like Adwords, in spite their targeting quality.People do the Google search when they want to, but receive sms's even when they don't want to. Most people in South Africa have cell phones, to an extend that not having one is tantamount to suffering beyond most people's patience. The need for one has become high priority.

    The challenge is to get most people to realise how much time it saves to do business on the web. Small business which are the subject of development in this country will benefit more doing business on the net that trying to stick with the traditional ways.

    There are a few Internet café’s but I am not sure if they are having any impact.We are currently selling landing pages to small businesses to advertise. In most cases there is less confidence that internet advertising works. In some cases it just overwhelming. I am looking for ideas how to get them to stampede to websites just as they do to cell phones and Cinemas.

    As much as selling advertising is not easy, it is but fun, enjoyable and exciting.

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