My Blog

June 3, 2018

This New Advertising Technology

I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. But this new advertising has been a real eye-opener for me.

Even Alfred G on CNET, ( evidently a very techie guy, was amazed at how fast Facebook rebuilt his profile. I guess I am not the only one staggered by the new technology.

Only I’m not just talking Facebook. I have been a startled to notice that when I look up something on our “beloved” Google, within a day, I am seeing ads for that same thing along the edges of my New York Times or Washington Post. Several months ago, I looked up the old Miami Biltmore when I was talking about Mom swimming there back in the Thirties. Suddenly the next day, there, on the side of my screen, was an ad for the new Biltmore Hotel. What? How did that happen?

You, I’m sure, have already been aware of this “targeting.” I had no clue.

Back in the good old days, two years ago, when I was trying to let people know about the tours, I made up the nicest little trifolds with bright pictures and cutesey bullet points and a tear-off section to fill in your name and address and credit card info. I then went all over town to put them in offices and retirement communities. That didn’t work at all. I just told my friends and they signed up.

I also took my advertising copy down to the local newspaper office with a little picture and some text and handed it across the counter to the nice lady. She charged me a couple hundred dollars. The next weekend my ad appeared in the local newspaper. Then, if I was lucky, someone might notice my little ad down in the corner of the fourteenth page of the daily newspaper. No one ever did, that I noticed.

Not so today.

Last week, a team of two expert salesmen arrived to talk to our Old Town Theater board about our advertising. One was a very polished elderly white gentleman, dressed to the nines (I wonder where that expression came from?) in a beautifully tailored navy pinstripe suit, bright white shirt, subdued gray tie complete with pocket square and – get this—cufflinks! I didn’t think anyone wore cufflinks anymore. The other salesman was a young African American, likewise dressed in a tailored three-piece charcoal gray suit, (a vest? In Texas? In the summer?) starched white shirt with light blue tie and pocket square. No cufflinks. Both carried the latest, expensive I-tablets.

They went around the table and introduced themselves, handing out business cards. It seems we haven’t been reaching our target audience, they informed us. They had hoped to be able to show us a Powerpoint but we had neither projector nor screen. No death-by-power-point here. Nothing daunted, they flipped open their tablets and proceeded to sell us on the need to reach our “intended buyers” for only $1500 to $2000 a month.

After they left, one of our board members insisted we could do the same thing on Facebook ourselves. But someone has to do it. And we need a list of people who would “friend” us on Facebook. We need a target audience. And we had to set up the ads. And we had to post them every day. And we had to contact some mysterious person who would place the ads on line. And then the ads would pop up on the sides or bottom or smack-dab across the middle of the screen of whatever our audience was reading. So, no, probably we could not do it ourselves. If we were twelve or had access to a teenager, we might.

Yesterday I met with Lang, the Digital sales rep for our local newspaper, and Damian, our local ad man. No fancy suits, no fancy I-pads, but the same pitch. Lang, a 30-something ex-football-looking white guy, and Damian, a slender ex-basketball playing African-American began explaining my need for an ad campaign—a digital ad campaign.

This time, I was prepared. I sort-of knew the lingo. It seems that advertising is far more sophisticated than it was even two years ago when I began advertising Historic Tours of Texas. I needed Key words to reach the potential buyers. My ad men could gather “unstructured data” to target the specific people who might be planning a specific vacation in Texas. Really? I could do that?

They purchase “unstructured data” from a vendor (there’s a whole ‘nother world out there!) and then use computer algorithms or software or something to sort the data into the selected topics. I provide them with key words, or they figure some out from my explanation, then they feed the key words into their computers to come up with the topics. They also list the specific kinds of people who might be interested – active retirees, families with kids on summer vacations, avocational historians.

Then, they will produce five sizes of ads for me—at no charge. The charge comes when they put the ads on-line. The cost depends on the size. Two are dedicated mobile aps, two are for desktops and laptops, and one is for Mobile phones and tablets. Several essentials—brighter pictures, a recognizable logo, and “calls to action” that people can click on. That clicking seems to be the key.

To actually reach people interested in the kind of traveling I offer requires Behavioral Targeting. That’s those topics that I mentioned. I’m still not certain how they go about finding those specific people. Do they target anyone who types any question about travel into Google or that big E thing or Yahoo or Bing?  And they know . . . how? Talk about Big Brother watching! I’m certain YOU aren’t surprised. You knew this, didn’t you? Not me.

Then, since I am a local company offering a service to local people, they suggested “Geo-fencing.” That means only targeting people within a fifty-mile area. They can DO that?

And finally, after the campaign goes “live,” they produce an in-depth monthly “Snap-shot” report that follows the “click-through” rates, the sum of the clicks, the actual people who are being reached, and the sum of impressions to determine if the campaign is working. If the Behavioral Targeting is not working, they can switch to Geo-fencing, or vice versa. The report shows graphs, charts, and numbers that tell them, and me, which one is working best or what target audience we are reaching and what the “click-through” rate is. The average “good” click-through rate is 0.09%!

And all this for ONLY $500 for 50,000 “impressions” a month. So much for the old newspaper ads! Although Damian says I need those too, for us elderly types who still read the newspaper.

Dang! It’s a whole new world out there. And I have to dip my toe in.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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