Villing & Company

My six personal pet peeves about marketing & advertising trends

This article is more personal and eclectic than my typical work in this space, but much of what I’ve written here speaks to what I believe is the mortal sin of marketing: practices that diminish the marketer’s brand.

Pet Peeve #1 – Web designer footer links/credits

No self-respecting marcom agency would ever dream of putting a credit for itself on a client’s ad, brochure, video or other marketing tool. So why do many developers place branded links in the footers of their clients’ websites? OK, I get that there is some back linking value for the developer (although I understand Google downplays links of this nature).  But who paid for the work and owns the site?  The client.  And the client gets little or no such benefit and the link only adds irrelevant clutter to the site.

#2 – Claims by SEO specialists

Does anyone still believe that an SEO specialist can really deliver on guarantees to produce first page results?  There are tons of variables in the algorithms of Google and other search tools that come into play when it comes to achieving exceptional search positioning. There are also strategic considerations that the marketer must take into account.  Are marketers willing to compromise on the visitor experience or professionalism of their site just to drive better search results? To be fair, there are many conscientious search consultants who are very ethical about the recommendations they provide.  Unfortunately, there are some who would try to drive their clients towards certain black hat tactics that tarnish brand image and detract from the user experience all in the name of “gaming” the system.  Those same types used to sell snake oil to unwitting customers.

#3 – Poor TV media buying tactics

As a consumer, how many times have you wanted to throw a brick at your TV when the same bad commercial is repeated numerous times during a single newscast or other program?  Why do advertisers believe they must bludgeon their audience to death when one interesting and well-produced commercial will convey the message without compromising the professionalism of the brand? And while the trend towards split 30’s (two 15 second spots in the same commercial pod) has merit when the individual spots employ different creative executions or messaging, repeating the same 15-second spot is just…plain…annoying. And not very smart media buying.

#4 – Local car, appliance, furniture and other retailer print advertising

This is hardly a new phenomenon to be sure. As long as print advertising has existed, local retailers have felt compelled to make their ads as obnoxiously cluttered and corny as possible.  Hello! This is 2019. Consumers are more sophisticated than ever and certainly don’t want to deal with all those starbursts and meaningless, overstated claims. Advertising is news.  Advertisers need to deliver that news in a simple, tasteful and professional way that does not insult the intelligence of the reader.

#5 – Disclaimers that couldn’t possibly be read, heard or understood.

OK, depending on the medium and the industry, most disclaimers are a matter of compliance with regulatory authorities.  So perhaps that is where the primary blame needs to be directed. But does cramming a 50-word disclaimer into the last 5 seconds of a radio spot, or burying it in teensy tiny type on a billboard or TV spot really serve anyone?

#6 – Misplaced or misguided humor

As a long-time agency copywriter, I appreciate the smart use of humor in advertising.  But from this perspective, I also realize how difficult it is to write humorous advertising - and how subjective the audience’s response is likely to be. Not only do many ads fall as flat as a bad Dad joke or a poor open mic routine, but even if they are legitimately funny, do they advance the marketer’s brand image?  How often have we all discussed a commercial that struck our funny bone but then we couldn’t remember who the advertiser was?

Years ago, David Ogilvy famously commented, “It’s not creative unless it sells.” Since humor has become the default device for much of what is considered creative these days, I believe Ogilvy’s words are as relevant today as ever.

Filed Under: branding, advertising

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