Advertising and social media: a match made in heaven or hell?

My dissertation is finally over, and so is the break I had in blogging over the past few weeks.  It’s time for reflections and new insights. First of all, I have to say that I’m – mildly put – surprised over the responses I got from the potential employers, to whom I sent my job applications. I got explicitly positive feedbacks from the advertising agencies (who were my second priority), and not so much responses from the PR agencies (who were my first priority). I’m certainly not very picky at this point of my life, and welcome all I can get. Still, puzzling.

It made me to re-evaluate my originally negative attitudes to online advertising, and look into it once again.

I’m still convinced that although markets certainly are conversations, conversations are NOT markets, as many advertisers have erroneously assumed.  I’m persuaded that advertising via social media is doomed to fail, because in effect it disturbs the ongoing conversation and seldom adds value to it. If online advertising is to be successful, it must not disturb the existing conversations but rather spark them off.  That is where advertising comes in with its idol of all times: creativity.  Creatively made video advertisements have potential to become shared by millions of social media users, and trigger both online advocacy and mainstream media coverage. There is, however, danger of marketing message being lost in the frame of the advertisement. Advertising should first of all be business, and only then art. Unfortunately, often, it is the other way.

If advertising is to survive in the hostile to it jungle of social media, it must adjust to the changed perceptions. Decision to invest in mass marketing on internet is the same as investing in the snow in the winter, and customised advertising is not the answer. The best advertisements are those which make people talk, and the best speakers on the social web are, yes, bloggers.

As Brian Clark points out, it is not the quantity of people marketers should try to reach, but rather their quality. It is worth while to reach out the Long Tail, those bloggers who are faithfully interested in the certain subject or industry, and who have authenticity and popularity to trigger a fruitful online conversation about your brand.

Advertising agencies increasingly see potential with social media tools. If they do their homework, and adjust to the changed rules, they might just as well survive the digital revolution despite of the gloomy prophesies made by Al and Laura Rise in 2002 in “The fall of advertisement and the rise of PR”.

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10 Responses to “Advertising and social media: a match made in heaven or hell?”


  1. 1 Allen Taylor June 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. 2 intechs June 15, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    We are finding that there is an increase in advertising moving to the internet and/or social media environments.

    It is our understanding that advertising on the internet is a lower cost advertising solution, thus a good choice in this economic environment.

    Your thoughts about how successful the transition will be to online social media are very interesting. From the perspective of content writing we are noticing that newspaper and magazine advertising has reduced but internet and social media advertising has not been used effectively in many cases.

    Our work on email campaigns has shown us that many companies do not know how to effectively implement these campaigns for reasons such as deadlines, cost, poor designs, and lack of web skills.

    In addition, there are discussions about how social media will be impacting technical communicators, advertisers, and others, so this is definitely something that needs to be watched.

  3. 3 Helena Makhotlova June 15, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Indeed, the social web is both highly populated and very cheap medium, and this has encouraged many marketers to jump on the carousel. However, as I wrote in my earlier posts, social platforms are used by people explicitly to connect to each other, not to the companies and their products. In fact, advertising is a force which has a potential to scare users away from social networks in the same way as spam e-mails have compelled millions of users to change their accounts. It is not to say that advertising has no future online. But it will have to find new ways to appeal to consumers, and interactivity, story telling and creativity with value in it are the keys to success.

    For example, Dell’s ReGeneration marketing campaign on Facebook, which they launched together with Federated Media and Graffiti Wall, is an example of a new, interactive and engaging social marketing, which proved very effective. The campaign had a form of a creative contest, where users were invited to submit their own pieces of art, which represented what ‘green’ meant to them. It is arguable if such campaigns can be called advertising, but I think social media will eventually blurry distinctions between marketing, advertising and PR in order to find new and successful ways to engage with end-users.

  4. 4 Richard Bailey June 17, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Clients don’t want advertising any more than they want public relations. They want neither of these things, but they’re desperate for those things they think advertising and PR can bring them: whether it’s awareness, acceptance, sales, support, reputation, ongoing dialogue etc.

    The smart agencies have moved on from offering a limited range of services to helping clients navigate this difficult terrain.

    If you find one of these agencies, then I’ve no doubt you have a bright future.

  5. 5 mrk/pr wireless July 1, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I only wish advertising or marketers could come up with something that will really reflect one true simple fact in life: people matter! That’s a reality that social media comes to address – from disfranchisement to empowerment. Please, someone stop creativity self-worship and idolatrous minds set of advertising as art which bemuses audiences rather than engage and communicate. In the world of Digital media Relations the pendulum is still swinging and my guess is that it will continue to do for a while until it find balance and perfect equilibrium, so we will have heaven and hell… thoughtful post, thanks!

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