Three Lessons This Digital Marketer Learned from the Ad-Side - Social Media Explorer
Three Lessons This Digital Marketer Learned from the Ad-Side
Three Lessons This Digital Marketer Learned from the Ad-Side

Odds are, you’ll be talking about Super Bowl commercials at some point this week. Ironic since the social media set has been trying to convince us that advertising is dead for the past decade. The truth is, good advertising works. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be talking about that Mophie spot or Budweiser’s dog and pony show from Sunday’s big game telecast.

If digital marketing and social media talking heads really want to be honest about what they know, they’ll tell you they’ve learned a lot from advertising through the years. It has been the primary way companies communicate messages to consumers for decades. The Super Bowl has become the annual celebration of the best advertising out there and as many people watch it for the spots as the ballgame. We even idolize the golden age of advertising represented in a dandy television show.

For four years, I had the honor of working at Doe-Anderson, a fine advertising agency in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. Through brand partners, I’ve been in strategy and working session and worked with people from BBDO, J Walter Thompson, Saachi & Saachi and more. And the ad-side folks I’ve worked with through the years have certainly contributed to my knowledge and understanding of marketing and communications — even the principles I evangelize in the digital marketing and social media worlds.

A few of them:

We Are In The Holy Smokes Business

How do you judge a good advertisement? One that makes you laugh? One that makes you cry? One that leaves you with the notion you have to buy that item or at least feel good about it? The common thread is that a good advertisement pushes an emotional trigger. It makes you say, “Holy Smokes! That’s ________ (insert adjective here).”

This is the exact payoff good content has — content that you might use on your blog, Facebook feed, Instagram and more. The content (ad) must be memorable (elicit a response) for it to be successful.

Repetition Is Key

There are a handful of last night’s Super Bowl advertisements you will never see again. They put all their marketing eggs into a moment in time and blew their budget on the big game. They will see some pick up (hopefully) for the trouble today and throughout the week. But then they’ll disappear into irrelevance.

Why? Because repetition is the key to delivering a message. You cannot trust that people will hear or see a marketing message once and get it. You have to drill it into their heads.

My friends in Louisville hate this guy:

But Tony Malito sells a lot of used cars. Why? Because every television and radio station in town reminds you about every 12 minutes that he is the “Dealer for Da People.” I personally can’t stand his ads, but like the annoying personal injury attorneys, Tony Malito knows that while 80% of the audience may not like the spots, the other 20% might come in a buy a car from him. So good on him.

In social channels, this translates to consistency of message. If you’re trying to be the fun and witty “friend” then you have to be that all the time, not just during the Super Bowl or Oscars or whatever live tweeting moment you wish to get snarky with. That content strategy needs to emit the same light all the time. The more consistent you are with voice and tone, the more people will remember you as being that “friend” indeed.

You Don’t Have To Sell To Do Well

The Dove commercial from last night’s game paid tribute to Dads. It was a tear-jerker of a spot for anyone who loves being a father. It drove people to submit their own idea of how, “care makes you stronger with #RealStrength.” The touching tribute to dads had a brief moment of product shot, but it never tried to sell their care products for men.

Like Budweiser and other commercials, Dove was not trying to sell us soap. They were trying to sell us an idea. They hope that the idea they sell — in this case appreciation for fathers — is a powerful idea you’ll associate them with the next time you need to purchase body wash or skin care items for your husband, father, or self. Budweiser’s puppy spots don’t sell beer. They sell values the brewer wishes consumers to identify as part of their brand.

And these spots work to associate brands with those values. Ford is about Quality. Never mind that as of 2011, Ford had more vehicle recalls than all but two car makers.

In the digital and social space, who does well? Companies that provide usefulness, are helpful, or are entertaining. Not ones that push product and deals down our throats.

Lessons Learned

Instead of acting like social media or digital marketing are different than advertising, or that advertising is a dying industry, what do you say we call it like it is? Advertising teaches us a lot about how to communicate effectively as a brand in any medium. Yes, there are differences. No, they aren’t vast.

Maybe that understanding can help us build smarter brands that serve our customers well while driving the bottom line numbers, too.


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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at

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