Perfect Advertising

I was at a StartUp Club event last night and had a brief discussion with someone who had the thesis that all advertising by companies is evil and therefor will soon (?) be overtaken by personal recommendations from your social circle.

I disagree with that for a number of reasons (eg, your social circle may not be best qualified to make a recommendation etc etc), but during the course of the discussion I was surprised when no one recognized the term Perfect Advertising. A quick bit of Googling today only turned up one decent post, and yet I’m sure this isn’t a concept I’ve invented.

Perfect Advertising is the idea that a person sees no advertising until they need something, and at that point a single advertisement is presented to them that matches their requirements perfectly.

The example last night was jogging shoes. The original argument was that you will get shoe recommendations from your friends. My counterpoint was that it would be easy to get better recommendations by instrumenting your body and taking advice from sports scientists, and in a world with perfect advertising you would be presented with a single choice of shoes, in the correct size that compensated perfectly for your over or under pronation. That’s not a recommendation your friends are likely to be qualified to make, but of course perfect advertising would take into account the views of your social circle, too (eg: will you be socially ostracized by buying Nike shoes, or will you be laughed at for buying Vibrum Five Fingers?)

This might seem a distant goal, but none the less it’s an important concept because it shows the weakness in social advertising systems (the lack of intent) as well as a weakness in search advertising systems (the lack of context).

Is it easier to add context to search advertising or derive intent in social advertising? That’s the $100 billon question (literally), and I don’t have the answer.

One thought on “Perfect Advertising

  1. Perfect Post.
    I stumbled on your site for something else, and I instantly recognized the ‘perfect advertising’ you described as something I have at least thought of or maybe heard of before. One reason I think you see so little discussion of perfect advertising relates to your approach to shoe buying – you are eminently rational (I am too, as well as a runner), and most people aren’t; therefore they aren’t going to first look to science when thinking about footwear. Getting to my reason: the less rational don’t want a perfect answer, while the more rational realize that they can exploit this (slightly) irrational feature of others to _persuade_ others to buy what the more rational are selling (i.e. what the rational can get cheaply). The sellers have jobs in the advertising, marketing, retail, etc. industries. There is an adage in trading: if you think something is too expensive, sell it, too cheap, buy it. In that sense, good traders (and good advertisers) are agnostic to “fit” or any intrinsic quality of the merchandise.

    I have zero beef with the sellers above, btw. I think anyone should be able to attempt to persuade anyone else about anything – persuasion not force, not threat.
    But sellers who understand the irrationality of the majority also realize that a lot less than 98% of the market cares about what is the “perfect fit” product and a lot more about how they feel when the buyer decides/connects/purchases/uses/shares the product.
    Thus, the idea of the perfect advertising falls by the wayside, waiting for innovators like Google to much more closely approximate it through scientific a/b and what amounts to enormous natural selection with its advertisers probing its market.
    I have come to these ideas because like yourself I am a super-analyzer consumer, and it took me years to realize that most people simply aren’t and will never research things the way or to the extent I do.

    I think the product-pushing potential of the social-network -> intent approach will not catch up to the intent-first product offer model (search engine model). I think this is because social network driven consumption will naturally peak at a certain age and be replaced by internally defined intents, say by the mid-20s. I think there will be a role, but intent and even the in-store experience will still dominate buying behavior. Just off-the cuff $0.02.

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