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Is Coupon Clipping Social Media’s Primary Value to Advertisers?

Posted by Doug Garnett January - 18 - 2011 - Tuesday

Ad agencies seem unable to resist the idea that there’s a “killer media” out there to fulfill their every dream. And that creates a tremendously dysfunctional business – which dashes off for a night of new media partying only to end up hungover and broke when reality hits in the morning.

Right now, morning light has begun to appear for social media. Social attracted huge hype and some big corporate ad dollars with the crowd theory. This theory suggests that with so many consumers using social media it MUST be a worthwhile place to advertise.

That’s jumping a bit far, a bit fast and the crowd theory is rife with problems. Consider: If the crowd wants to talk with each other, why would they want to engage in any commercial conversation with you? Most consumer’s don’t want to be your friend.

Show Them the Money. Now we learn that consumers primarily engage with companies to get a good deal (research reported in this article from the Media Research Institute confirms other behavioral data). Note:

- Nearly 1/2 of women are primarily looking for deals through social media.
- Nearly 1/3 of men are primarily looking for deals through social media.

Uh, oh. Just as marketer’s were beginning to look forward to long soulful conversations with their consumers we find out they really only want deep discounts from us. Sigh.

The Web: Discounter’s Paradise. This isn’t bad or good. But coupon clipping with Facebook is far from the virulent & virally driven social media engagement conversations that the digerati tell us will drive the entire future of marketing (note that they can’t explain how these conversations are supposed to osmose into profit).

Social isn’t alone with coupon clipping. I just came from a Google presentation. Guess what common theme kept coming up? Using online coupons and discounts through Google, YouTube and its other properties.

All this suggests the web’s biggest advertising strength (I’m not talking about storefronts) may be the modern equivalent of Green Stamps. (History Check: In the 50′s, 60′s, & 70′s women like my mom collected Green Stamps that were awarded based on purchase behavior. Pasted into coupon books, the stamps could be redeemed for “free gifts”. There’s nothing really new under the sun – just digital ways to do it.)

New Media Hype Has Little Connection with Reality. I’ve written elsewhere about how the DVR, instead of killing TV advertising, now appears to have made it more effective. But the gap between ad biz/digerati hype and reality is a common theme in new media.

In the early 2000′s, article after article extolled the virtues of video advertising at the gas pump. We were told that Coke, Pepsi and a wealth of other traditional advertisers would thrive by capturing that lonely moment while the consumer pumps gas.

Fast forward to 2008. I live in Oregon where, by law, we can’t pump our own gas. So I experienced this advertising first-hand on a trip to LA. What did I find? Not a big brand in sight. Instead, the pump featured a brassy, loud, and continuous run of cheesy ads dominated by Phoenix University and low-ball direct response advertisers.

It Gets Worse for Social. All this helps place in context an article this morning about the current #3 Facebook advertiser. This article claims that the third largest Facebook advertiser is a scam designed to change your default search engine to Bing so that this third party gets a payment every time you search. You can read details at the above link.

Is this Facebook’s equivalent of the noisy and invasive advertising that now dominates banners online or my Los Angeles gas pump?

Let’s All Embrace the Light of Day. New media can bring important value. But it’s not found in these wild, unthinking dashes. Cooler heads must prevail and search for both the strengths and the weaknesses of each new media. Only when this happens will we finally learn how to leverage a balance of traditional and new media advertising to increase market power for our clients.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett


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Doug Garnett, DRTV and Technology Industry Expert

Doug Garnett is founder and CEO of DRTV agency Atomic Direct and a leading expert on innovative uses of DRTV, infomercials and other in-depth TV and non-TV messages to build brand and drive sales.

Doug has been working in and around the technology field for 27 years. After starting in aerospace, he spent 5 years selling and marketing supercomputers. Since shifting to advertising, his clients have included AT&T, IBM, Apple, Disney Mobile, Ugobe, Presto, and Netpliance.

Doug sits on the editorial board of Response Magazine, is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University, and is a member of the Jordan-Whitney Greensheet Panel.

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