Print is alive and well, Reader, courtesy of your friends at Google.
Of late, we’ve noticed an appreciable spike in Google’s efforts to market their advertising services, most recently with this print piece we received at the studio yesterday. This seems weird to us for a number of reasons.
First, most people I know—myself included—have already unconsciously trained themselves to ignore the AdWords ads one sees at the top and side of a search. Nothing against advertising—we love advertising, in fact; at its root, it’s just telling people, ‘Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for; let’s talk.’ Plus you can make it look cool, which is kinda how we make a living.
But there’s something inherently…icky, to use a marketing term, about putting the highest bidder front-and-center when someone’s using a search engine. It just doesn’t strike the same note that placing an ad on a Web site or in a magazine does. It says to me: “I know you’re looking for this, but these guys gave us some money, so you should totally talk to them.” Search engines have been explained and sold to us as a functional tool which we should use to find information. In the same way that I don’t want to look over at my trusty hammer whilst hammering to see an ad reading “JOE’S HOME NAILGUNS—YOUR SOLUTION TO TIRED ARMS AND SORE THUMBS” plastered across the side of it, I don’t want to see ads on my searches and, thus, identify + ignore them as a matter of well-honed habit now.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not at all saying that Google doesn’t have a right, as a private company providing a service for free, to do whatever the hell they want. I’m just saying that I don’t think it works. Most of us have built blind spots into our e-vision now because we want to find our own path, not be led by Google and others in their field (Bing’s still around, right?) straight to whomever they deemed let through the gate because admission was paid. Which brings us to our next point:
Again, Google can do whatever the hell they want and they need to make money to keep the lights on, but, for a company who’s motto is “Don’t Be Evil”, doesn’t it seem a bit evil to introduce further classism into something as basic as the sharing of information? Yes, it’d be much more evil, one could argue, to build these ads into search results without calling them out like they do now, but there’s no getting around the fact that people who give money to Google show up on more computer screens and those people or companies should, in theory, be the ones who have more money already and are thus more likely to spend it on advertising. Which, in theory, would widen the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s.
Assuming it worked. Which, again, I really don’t think it does.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in that though. An article in The Atlantic last year sited the third quarter in a row of cost-per-click decline for Google advertising and a pronounced drop in Internet advertising overall. So let’s assume it doesn’t work. That means either Google is not making money with advertising or they’re now taking advantage of people who think this advertising works when it doesn’t. Or both at this point, really. But regardless, there’s the fourth and final point:
Crazies contact you through Web searches. Total crazies.
Clearly I’m embellishing + over-simplifying for the sake of humor here, but, as they say, there’s truth behind every joke. Yes, we’ve had many a client find us through a blind Web search or listing and had the resulting relationship blossom into a beautiful business-high-five-worthy endeavor that’s the stuff of 9-to-5 daydreams, but, honestly, that’s the rarer of the cases. Most often, the clients we prize most and with whom we form mutually enjoyable, long-term relationships find us through word-of-mouth from other clients we’ve enjoyed working with or, increasingly, through social media via various shared interests: animal rights, environmental sustainability, not being jerks, really nice photos of vegan food. That kind of thing. Whereas the essential cold calls tend to simply misunderstand the work we do and how + why we do it.
No joke—I once fielded a call from a gentleman who found us on Yelp and wanted me to ‘fix’ his telephone bill so that his wife wouldn’t know about certain calls and the associated costs of them. Clearly that’s less Yelp’s fault than the guy’s, most likely, but I just couldn’t see any of our regular clients asking us to do something along those lines.
So, thank you, Google, for keeping print alive, but I’m afraid we must agree with you: “Run an ad. Why?”
PS—Please don’t shut down our blog. That would suck.