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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Has Unstoppable Power…

Posted October 17th, 2010 by Andrew Goodman

… or does it?

Large brands are doing more with paid search and targeted text ads nowadays, so naturally I get curious when I see the copy in an ad that shows up in my GMail account, as one just did for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

As a professional in the business, of course I am a busybody, and I wonder what the strategy is, and whether there are any holes in it.

To pick holes in a big agency, big brand paid search campaign is often child’s play, of course. There tend to be so many moving parts to doing it well, and so many missing meetings (where the plan isn’t properly discussed), that you get a sort of “default mode, good enough” effort that is presumably better than nothing.

For example, the Grand Cherokee ad takes me to a nearly empty default page for the vehicle. No text, no content, no flash, just the main identifier and the navigation, and big page of white space. Nice! One click later, on “vehicle home,” and I’m on the real page, attractively laid out square buttons for the full vehicle lineup, and a big, thirsty, attractive Flash promo with production that looks like it cost a bunch. Me, I would have taken users to the costly page that actually had content.

And then there was the curious matter of the ad copy. The text ad tells me that this vehicle has “Unstoppable Power”. I looked high and low for any references to this benefit/catchphrase in any of the copy on the website, or elsewhere online. Nada. The closest I got was the more realistic description of the Audi R8 V10 in a car review.

So was the copywriter freelancing? Looking for the ad copy that might somehow perform best? Talking with someone in the client organization, but not others? Looking at the website or other ad materials, or not? It’s hard to know, but it’s not hard to gather that all the parts aren’t working in sync.

When traditional agencies and in-house ad teams still:

  • “Produce” websites and pages, but never test them;
  • Continue to speak the language of media buying, but then make offhand comments about ROI and performance to their search marketing pro in the hopes they’ll work harder, without explaining how we’re all going to work together to achieve which goals;
  • Budget $50,000 or $500,000 for search promotions for “bursty” scheduled tests, but don’t tell anyone the test is coming up, or make provisions for relevant landing pages for what are being termed “promotions”;

…It’s safe to say the left hand still doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. And that certainly seems to be the case with the Jeep Grand Cherokee ads.

And who will take ownership of that problem?

In Canada, the answer is pretty simple. Few take ownership of important conversations that need to be held across the chasm of new professional / traditional agency / big company client / IT, etc. But that may not be the individuals’ fault. You’d have to be a little bit crazy to challenge the incentive system in the current culture, to stick your neck out beyond your formal role. (Although to do so is divine. Read Linchpin, by Seth Godin.)

But why did the ad copywriter dream up their own creative not in keeping with anything the client is doing?

There are two potential answers: the charitable, and the less charitable version. I’m ruling out the possibility that somehow the rogue ad copy that has nothing to do with anything the client has said or done at any level was somehow approved all the way up the chain.

[BTW, in general, I do approve of rogue copy, especially when performance is on the line and your metrics are meaningful. It's the only way to get anything done.]

1. Charitably, the ad copywriter is actually a search marketing professional who could bring a load of insight to the task, so without formal authorization, they began tinkering. In essence, because they were bored and not challenged enough. Trying to run some kind of test is better than nothing. It’s those kinds of people that need to be given more seats at more tables, and more scope in their careers in general. If not, they’re going to work for your competition, or start their own company, and you’re lunch.

2. What I fear, though, is that scenario I went over in 2008 in Winning Results. Ad agency folk are trying to port over their former lives into the digital space. They long to win awards or to think creatively or to generate impressive sounding taglines or whatever it is they do. Unfortunately they’re stuck in a tiny little ad space where no one will ever win an award. They still, for some reason, feel like the user responds to tagline-style “creative”. Imagine how far you’d have to be down the food chain in the traditional agency world, to be given a performance marketing job that you don’t know how to do, not be given access to any insight or any decision-makers. A job where you’ll have an infinitesimal chance of winning an award. But you do it anyway, hoping to get promoted out of that hellhole into some animation producer job. And you nod and agree whenever a partner at the agency vaguely refers to the awesome brand lift of running confusing, “integrated” campaigns which appear to include the search “buy” they stuck you with. Your role itself makes the other agency people vaguely uncomfortable. Your social calendar starts to contract. You begin a relationship with 425 Twitter followers and sadly boast through Foursquare about the bars and cafes you’re at.

And that’s precisely the difference between them, and us (a post-Chaos-Scenario data-driven digital marketing agency). And it’s the difference I try to highlight whenever I sit down with a performance-oriented prospect to look at their campaign goals.

In our world, that little task of optimizing an ad or a bid, or pushing back on a landing page test, or diving deep into Analytics, or understanding the auction’s workings, or whatever… doesn’t put you low on the food chain. It’s the highest form of art. It’s what we respect each other for. And even the partners or CEO’s of this world, or whatever they should be called, can shake off the cobwebs and make a campaign sing… hands-on.

That key difference, then: We know what we’re doing. They don’t. We care. They don’t.

I’m not Don Draper, and I know it.

For some reason, “they” still think we’re living in 1964. I don’t even wish we were.

Enjoy tonight’s season finale.

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