Facebook Advertising. P&G Failure.

Facebook AdvertisingI just read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about P&G (the largest advertiser on the globe) and its experience placing Facebook advertising in front of a highly targeted audience.

It seems that Proctor and Gamble had very limited success with the venture so far. It seems counterintuitive that it would not work as expected. Consider this:

P&G Facebook Advertising

The P&G brand Pampers is able to target new moms and pregnant women on Facebook. The very audience it NEEDS to excite to purchase. Feels like a no brainer. But P&G found the resulting sales less than exciting. As a result, while not giving up on Facebook, P&G is going to increase its TV advertising next year.

What is missing in Facebook advertising?

In other words, Proctor discovered that broad based rather than strictly targeted ads work better. What it is not grasping fully is WHY.

For most of the marketing world, P&G wrote the book on branding. In fact, it doesn’t really understand brand very well. What it invented and took to the level of a science is brand management. The entire marketing focus is on brand teams and the tight relationship between the brand managers and the product.

The reason the Facebook initiative is not working all that well is because the types of advertising that marketers create on Facebook turn out to be product ads and not brand advertising. The snippets are akin to billboards. They focus on efficacy and pricing, not on branding.

I say this because contrary to what P&G has made into its culture, branding is not about the product or HOW it works. Branding is about WHY it matters to the target audience.

Jif Facebook AdvertisingBranding works

The greatest brands in the world are, at their core, a reflection of the customer they need to influence. The greatest promise that Pampers can make is not how dry the baby is when you use Pampers (after all, every disposable diaper keeps the baby dry). It is about WHO the mom IS when she uses Pampers. How a Pampers mom is different and better than those that use a different brand.

Think of Jif peanut butter. Sure it promises that it tastes more like fresh peanuts but the brand promise that choosey mothers choose Jif is the driver of preference. That’s the sort of brand message I am speaking of.

To make Facebook advertising work for marketers, they need to have a MORE emotional message than they do in virtually every other medium. Facebook users have the attention span of a gnat and you must grab them in the gut to get them to invest in a message more intrusive than a billboard or coupon.pampers Facebook Advertising

If the medium is the message, then P&G must be better at selling the brand and not the product. It’s a brave new world of marketing and traditional advertising is becoming less effective. Advertisers struggle to become more effective and targeting sounds like the answer. It is.

But it requires a rethinking of what branding IS. The halls of P&G must stop harping on the agencies in the Proctor tent with the uniform call of “where is the demo” to an up-to-date demand of “where is the prospect’s emotional needs?”

VisitNC and the billboard dilemma

The way some billboards have been executed have been the bane of my existence.

Years ago, I commuted to my advertising job in Bala Cynwyd, PA (just outside of Philadelphia) from Newark, Delaware, where the litany of forgettable billboards littered the side of the highway. My nightmares of this working odyssey continue today.

I’ll never understand why anyone would place a phone number on a billboard. Think about that for a minute. Who has the time, in a car, to jot a number down or remember it? Not me, and I’ll assume you don’t either.

How about those billboards with sentences of copy. It’s just asking for a roadway disaster? Nobody has the time to ingest an epistle while driving.

However, there are a handful of billboards that really work. Chick-Fil-A billboards always make me laugh. They are simple and memorable. McDonald’s typically has its ducks in a row when it comes to this form of media. And, most of the time, VisitNC (visitNC.com) leaves a positive impression on me.

That is, until its recent campaign.

A billboard from VisitNC shows a common problem.

Take a look at the following billboard for VisitNC:

VisitNC
What are you going to do? Log onto VisitNC while driving?

Know this, VisitNC has made some of the finest advertising in its past. Like this print ad:

VisitNC
This is a nice VisitNC ad. For an ad.

Isn’t this beautiful? It’s simple minded and elegant. It makes North Carolina a place I am proud to live (although not its HB2 bill) and a state I want to explore.

This is why I am so critical of the VisitNC billboard. It’s not the same calibre of work. The art direction breaks a critical rule: seeing and saying. The assumption is that viewers of this ad won’t understand the idea that VisitNC is a site you can frequent to help you embrace the state of North Carolina and, in turn, remove yourself from that very technology used in the process of discovery as you “get lost” the state. Whew, kind of a convoluted singe minded proposition, huh? Instead, the art director has plastered a ridiculous iPad in the middle of the advertisement as to clue us into this mindset. This uglies an already stock looking ad, and forcefully beats a meandering idea in our heads.

Which brings me back to the wonderfully simple print ad. It’s about the destination. Not the process. While the billboard is all about the a process.

To truly understand your target audience you need to know what motivates them and why they are motivated to begin with. The motivation of those using VisitNC.com is in having vested interest in exploring the state of North Carolina. That is all. It is not about the website that gives you ideas of what to do.