and why they’re failing so badly at appealing to youth, and they never seem to be paying attention to the HEAPS OF CRITICISM, even when most all the notes on their sponsored posts are specifically telling them, in detail, why they suck.
(sorry for the long post)
First of all, they are actually listening.
My dad works in advertising and graphic design, he’s in this industry, and he certainly listens to me every single time I talk about the memes, the culture of the internet and today’s youth and all the hip things like that. He’s gotta. This is his job, his paycheck really depends on whether or not he knows exactly how to appeal to whatever target audience the company wants him to appeal to. He’s got to be hip on all the memes, internet slang, popular music and media, because if he doesn’t, he’s gonna get replaced by a younger guy fresh out of art school. So you bet your ass he’s gonna listen and pay attention and ask questions whenever his 19-year-old daughter’s talking about DWC, the new game that Blizzard just released, or Hillary Clinton’s pathetic attempts to get the youth vote.
As you can imagine, everyone in marketing is trying their damned hardest to make sure their content appeals. By this point, they know exactly why content doesn’t appeal, because they’ve analyzed why things do and dont appeal from every possible angle. People literally go to school for this. They attend workshops.
So if that’s the case, then wtf is happening?
Why do we get shit like this
[a funyun on a unicorn head with “my head when I smell your breath”]
spammed all over our feeds?
Well it’s a bunch of factors, and not all of it is the age of the people making this content.
See, the internet and social media has actually brought a kind of mini-crisis upon the marketing industry. They have to constantly be appealing to kids these days, or they quickly become irrelevant, uncool. Every day, individual advertisers, and the industry as a whole, has to ask themselves what appeals to this generation, what can they offer that would appeal to the kids these days?
They’ve got a crisis on their hands right now, because, to put it simply, we all hate advertisements. With a burning passion.
And they’ve noticed this, they’ve noticed that internet youth as a whole will go to any possible lengths to avoid ads, that we’ll download extensions, avoid websites, even fucking pay money if it means we won’t have to deal with any goddamn ads, and then when we do see ads, we’ll relentlessly mock them on every possible flaw we can find.
They had a whole decade to notice their audience’s overwhelmingly negative response to anything that’s trying to sell them shit. They are fully aware how annoying their very existence is to us.
So right now, what they’re trying to do is make ads that don’t look like ads.
The first thing they figured they should do, was that instead of doing banner ads and sidebar ads and video interruptions in your youtube and spotify, they should be doing sponsored posts: write up their ads in post form, put them up on a designated corporate account on a popular social media site, then pay the site to seed those posts on everyone’s feed. There you go. It’s an ad, but it doesn’t look like an ad. Maybe the internet people won’t be as annoyed now, because it’s just a post in their feed, it’s not disrupting their experience in any significant way like other ads do.
Well, they tried that, and it didn’t work. It didn’t really matter that now it was all in accordance with the natural functions of the site, pretty much all of us could see that this,
[chess based microsoft ad on twitter]
is a fucking ad. That’s a goddamn ad that’s being put on our feeds against our will. Nobody followed fucking Microsoft, why in fuck would we do that? there’s nothing but ads on that account, and who the fuck wants ads?
So now they have to go back to the drawing board, and figure out another way to make these ads appealing, even though they’re ads and everyone hates ads.
So the marketing guys noticed how a new meme causes everyone to suddenly gain interest in a new piece of media, and how quickly viral content will spread in general. How, say, all those Doritos and Mountain Dew in MLG montages are basically free advertising, or how the slew of viral videos featuring horse head masks caused the sale of those particular horse head masks to skyrocket, etc etc.
In the memes, they found a possible solution to this near-impossible conundrum that the industry is trapped in.
Basically, the way to make your ads not look like ads, is to make them look like your average viral content. You have to turn your brand into a meme in order to appeal.
It was actually probably Denny’s that figured out the formula first, and they’re probably still one of the most successful examples.
Think about it. Did Denny’s even HAVE to sponsor their posts? Or did we just all willingly reblog them because they were so fuckin weird, and we couldn’t believe a corporation was doing this shit?
But now here’s the problem, and this is why the ads are failing to appeal, even more than obvious reasons like “they’re all putting existing and outdated memes in their ads, and its really uncreative and out of touch”:
The problem is there’s no direct interaction with the audience.
You know how the Denny’s blog answers asks? That’s exactly the sort of thing that’s lacking from all these corporate blogs, that’s why they’re still really obvious adspewers, and thus, why they’re so damn annoying (other than all the piggybacking on outdated memes, ofc).
Other than Denny’s, I’ve only seen two isolated situations where a corporate blog actually responded to feedback of any kind:
- That one time that a visual novel app actually announced two lesbian love interests in response to someone demanding gay content.
- That one time Episode got self-aware and mentioned Tumblr in an ad
The first response garnered actual respect for the app, while Episode’s ad caused everyone to burst into mock panic (which was par for the course, given how their strategy seems to be “become infamous for our wild ads, and maybe someone will be curious to try out our app”).
Given how most of us will accept ads in the form of “signal boosts” from fellow tumblr users, it’s basically a given that, as a whole, we respond much better once we’re assured there’s an actual genuine person behind the ad, who is sincerely trying to reach out to us.
So you know, why the fuck do all these marketing blogs, Episode, Battlecamp, Funyuns, Game of War, etc.
why do they
talk to us?
they can’t actually talk to us.
Corporations have rules, regulations. These advertisers running the marketing accounts aren’t CEOs, they’re not even managers, they’re most likely low-level workers in the midst of the marketing branch of the company, a branch that, for the most part, has to follow the rules of the company, and are under extreme pressure (from company lawyers and the PR department) not to do anything out-of-line.
Actually responding to asks or reblogs are a huge risk, and the people who command the guys who run these blogs have a bajillion reasons why they don’t want some bloody grunt to go saying whatever the hell they want on the official corporation’s tumblr blog.They could say something off-color and cause a scandal, or they could ruin the company’s professional reputation just by acting like a human being. When they log into that blog, the low-level grunt is supposed to be representing the entire corporation, a body made up of hundreds or thousands of people. You’d better damn well make sure they’re saying the right thing.
Running the official Denny’s blog probably takes a very organized and deliberate effort, along with a hella lot of risk, all to make those weird posts, reply to asks, even to figure out the perfect blend of surrealism and mundanity, while at the same time ensuring their product actually looks appealing. it probably takes a whole team to run that blog, if we’ll be honest. There’s probably 10 mods, who all have to be in close contact with not only each other, but with the boss. The boss has to trust them to not fuck up. It probably took a lot of careful planning and communication in order to figure out a stable system for all that.
Episode couldn’t make a response to tumblr that wasn’t formatted like one of their usual ads, and they only made their (pseudo) response after a string of increasingly weirder ads convinced them that such a daring move like mentioning tumblr wouldn’t be a total disaster (well, more like convinced them that “total disaster” is something that should actually be their marketing ploy from now on).
Kisses and Curses (the aforementioned paranormal romance app) obviously was planning the female love interests already, and saw in that single comment a good opportunity to officially announce them. They also are most likely a smaller company, probably a single team that’s doing double duty on both content creation and marketing, giving them much less red tape if they wanted to answer a question like “but do the lesbians die,” or model future content after the desires of their target audience. They have a lot more freedom to be human, is what I’m trying to say.
And while it’s fully possible that something can reach viral status and be beloved as a brand without having to respond directly to their audience, it’s pretty impossible to intentionally pull that sort of thing off, especially when you’re advertising a product or service. That kind of viral fame depends on being unexpected and unexplained, an enigma, really, and as a result, any strategy you find that actually works will only ever work the first time. The second person who tries the same thing will be labeled an obvious copycat.
TL;DR: the field of advertising is struggling to figure out how to adapt to an audience that hates the very existence of ads, and their only strategy is to make their ads less and less ad-like, and make their marketing accounts more like actual users and content creators.
However, due to the structure and size of the companies themselves, they can’t actually do that. Fully committing to their emulation of content creators would mean they’d have to let the employees who run these blogs freely respond to their audience, and actively communicate with them. That’s a risk that no company is fully willing to take, and thus, all these advertisers are forced to make shitty content bandwagoning off the latest trends, and cross their fingers that someone finds the mess appealing on an ironic level.
Everyone’s pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the only way out of the shitty ads is to literally redefine the whole concept of marketing, because we just flat-out hate all ads nowadays, no matter what they are or how they come to us.
As someone who actually works in marketing and has been in charge of social media accounts I can 110% confirm this. We are VERY limited in how we can engage, and the bosses (aka non-social-savvy CEOs who hire us) often don’t understand how important it is and actively discourage us from doing more than sharing.
They prefer to invest money in paid boosts, because it means they’re (technically) reaching more people, and they can also quantify their ROI. You can’t get data analysis on each individual interaction, so they don’t encourage it.
It’s become a game of quantity, not quality.
I actually like ads, when they’re telling me about something that I want to know about, and aren’t big flickering things that prevent reading.