Advertising with the wrong signaling, a sighting
Good example of an advertising signaling problem: Chris Castle on BMW’s Response to Ads for Its Brands on Pirate Sites. Somehow, BMW advertising ended up running on an unlicensed album download page, on a site called mp3crank.
Castle writes: "Brands like BMW are in a unique position to both (a) stop the money and (b) demand a rebate from their ad agency or ad network. But then we are always told that none of these ad networks (or ad exchanges) profit from piracy because their contracts say they don’t."
But this isn't just a problem with ads ending up on user-generated content, or user-"generated" infringing content. The power of the ad is in its ability to signal that the advertiser spend money on the ad. An ad on a cheesy illegal download carries no signal at best, and more likely a signal in the wrong direction.
Dalton Caldwell writes about the problem of advertising on inexpensive content here: Hot Dogs & Caviar. He makes the excellent point that the Valley hasn't converted cheap content "hot dogs" into high-performing ad "caviar". Now it seems that we're starting to realize that there is no adtech Holy Grail. Infringing, user-generated, and other cheap content fails to carry the signal that costly content does, no matter how much math you do on it.
Couple of bonus links. This piece, How BuzzFeed is bucking banner ads with curated content and social advertising, has a—well, let's just say "direct"—view of online advertising's effectiveness: "99% of internet users do not click ads and those that do are often members of the wrong audience—older, lower income, basically irrelevant." (They probably drink Thunderbird wine and run Microsoft Internet Explorer, too. Who needs them?)
Interesting post by Bill Lee: Marketing Is Dead. (Maybe the answer is two steps: first stop treating "social" as part of marketing, and second, stop de-skilling customer service jobs, and unblock experienced service and support people's access to social sites.)