Paid Advertising You Suck!

March 12, 2014 - 11 minutes read

The Best Way to Suck (Even More) at Marketing!

The topic I’m bringing up today is one that has been on my mind awhile. Though it isn’t exactly a PPC tactical post, which I have been known for, it is one I am very passionate about, and believe you should be too!

This could be considered a very thought provoking and controversial topic of conversation. The example I use which pushed me over the edge to write this post, is not personal, but just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. So proceed with caution, and your heart medicine on hand if necessary.

So what pushed me over the edge?

pushed over the edge of a cliff

Everybody loves Moz’s White Board Fridays (including me), but the White Board on Valentine’s Day really rubbed me the wrong way. On a day that we celebrate love and “relationships” – which was the focus of Rand’s post – one paragraph did just the opposite.

If you’re missing that [long-term focus], the flywheel that you should be building with things like SEO, with things like social media marketing, with things like content marketing encounters too much friction, and it actually becomes a transactional model, just like paid advertising, and you lose a ton of the benefit that you would normally get from inbound channels. So don’t do it. (emphasis added)”

Wait…what did he say?

In comparing how SEO, Social Media Marketing, and Content Marketing should be focused on building relationships, Rand basically said don’t be like Paid Advertising.

Paid Advertising You Suck

The title of Rand’s White Board was “The Best Way to Suck at Marketing”. When I read a paragraph that says “don’t be like Paid Advertising”, in a post that talks about sucking at marketing, that’s the image I get in my head.

Throwing out Paid Search, Paid Media, PPC, Paid Advertising – or whatever other term you want to use for what us “Paid Guys & Gals” do – from the Inbound Marketing cool group, well it isn’t… cool.  We could have a whole philosophical argument over several blog posts (which may be a good idea), but for all intents and purposes, Paid Media, just like SEO, Social, or Content Marketing, is driving potential relationships… inbound.

I’m not trying to start a fight, but a conversation.

Before anybody starts throwing virtual rotten vegetables at me, I do get the core of the message Rand, was trying to get across. You should focus on the long-term, not the short-term, because then you focus on building relationships, and not just a sale.


I (hope) Rand was talking more about the “spammy affiliate ads” out on the interweb, than the paid media professionals I work with everyday. The ad below, I’m sure all of us have seen, is just the type of “transactional” media that focuses on the short-term gains vs long-term relationships and if this is all we looked at could make paid advertising appear very transactional.

Horrible Paid Advertising

I’m hoping that in putting this out there, we can shed some light on issues in the online media industry and find ways to build bridges between disciplines, instead of in-fighting. I’m also hoping to help some of my “paid advertising” cohorts to look at things a little differently.

Who’s Best interest do you have at heart?

If there is one area of online marketing that absolutely drives me batty, it’s all of the “this channel deserves the credit” BS. Whether in-house or agency side, shouldn’t everybody be working for the same goal? Whether you do SEO, or PPC, shouldn’t you really be working together to build those relationships that help build long-term revenue? Or is it best to fight over who gets the credit for influencing that last revenue driving transaction?

Let’s lay it all out on the table. We fight over who gets credit not because it’s best for the client or company you work for, but we do it for glory, job security, ego, bragging rights, etc. At the end of the day, it is more likely than not, that every freaking media channel touched a potential relationship somewhere along the lines. You all did a great job! Way to go! But were you so busy building silos, and barriers internally (or between agencies), by focusing on the short-term, that you forgot to work together to build those long-term relationships?

Ask yourself at the end of the day, “Who’s best interest do you have at heart?” Is it your revenue and job security? Or is it your client’s or company’s? Are you doing what’s best for the long-term success of your client or company, or only focusing on the payday that week or month?

I know it’s not easy… Being the best shouldn’t be easy!

Maddie Bowman 2014 Olympics

All though there has been a lot of controversy around how Sochi has handled the Winter Olympics, most of us believe the athletes that compete, are the best of the best. They work hard to get to where they are and they don’t do things halfway.  Iin the team events, they have to work together to get the gold.

Rand mentioned brands that people rally around, you know the one’s that focus on relationships, and long-term value versus short-term revenue. When I think of a brand like that, I think of Zappos. They are a company which goes to enormous lengths to make sure customers are not only satisfied, but happy! I guarantee though that they still look at profitability. If it wasn’t profitable in the long run to offer free return shipping they wouldn’t do it.

The key to building relationships and focusing on long-term value is just that, the long-term value. You can’t run a business, without profits, well at least not for long. The problem, we run into is, we get so hyper focused on the immediate ROI of that transaction the customer made, we sometimes, forget to look at the long-term ROI we could have by being more relationship focused. That is also one of the key reasons why, we tend to fight for every scrap of revenue, as if it was the last potential source of ROI on the table.

Changing our ways, isn’t going to be easy. Even though we are an industry that is still very young in comparison to other marketing channels, we have really become set it in our ways.

We were so focused initially on proving the value of online media in the beginning, we sold ourselves short by being very “transactional” ROI based. “Move your spend to search,” we would say, “because you can see exactly which keyword, drove the purchase.” We painted ourselves into a corner, and have decided we like the color of the wall we found ourselves against.

So why point out PPC as the poster child for transactional behavior?

To all my Paid Media brothers and sisters I say, it’s because we rub it in everyone’s face how measurable our marketing discipline is compared to basically every other online channel!

This is a good thing! But can also be a bad thing when, all we focus on is that a=b, or this “keyword”=$X.XX in revenue. We even more so than other marketers, tend to evaluate values in, as psychology describes it, a linear causality perspective as shown below.

Linear Causality

When in reality, all of us need to realize that before the “transaction”, there are multiple touch points, which looks a little more like the image below.

cross channel relationship marketing

Get to your point already

I guess what I am really trying to say, is we all can do a better job of working together. The industry as a whole needs to examine itself, and work our way out of the corner we have painted ourselves into. Stop pointing fingers, quit being transactional focused, and start thinking more in terms of long-term value.

And to all of the Paid Media “Heroes” out there, let’s lead the charge as we help redefine, inbound marketing and relationships. It’s time for us to step up and start looking at the data we have access to in a different way.


We all need to stop pointing finger or fighting over the bread crumbs at the table, and start truly working together across marketing channels.



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