On my post re the Luis Vuitton spam comment, my pal Cynthia Radthorne commented: “The cost is practically nothing. If you consider the thousands upon thousands of spam messages that are out there (and how successful direct mail advertising has been with snail mail – they wouldn’t have done *that* unless they were making money at it), it’s no surprise that we’re pummeled with this stuff. They only need a .0001 percent return rate and they’ve made money. And some sop is going to end up buying a bag somewhere along the line…”
And I wanted to elaborate on this. I agree with Cynthia that it’s cheap, but cheap is not the same thing as free. Even if you get one dumb person out of a million who wanders in and that pays for the ad, is that really doing much for your company, especially when it’s a website that needs traffic? If you are selling something that people buy on a regular basis in large quantities, such as basic electronics, toys or shampoo, then blanket advertising through spam comments on blogs and such might be worth the pennies and reduces bad will. But if you’re selling something more specialized like luxury designer handbags or the one I got today — solar panels — then that sort of advertising doesn’t give you any bang for your buck, even if the costs are covered by one or two random sales. It doesn’t drive traffic to your site, it doesn’t raise your profile on the Net and may even hurt it with bad-mouthing from annoyed net denizens. With direct mail, at least you know that the ad is delivered to people, even if most of them throw it out after glancing at it. With spam commentators, the spam comments are often never read by anyone because spam blockers automatically delete them. Spam blocking programs of increasing sophistication are one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry. So essentially, you’re paying money to a company who then does pretty much nothing for you. You could have someone stand out on a streetcorner with flyers and get the same rate of return. You could stick a poster up on a pole and get the same rate of return. It’s a 1999 digital marketing strategy based on old media direct mail marketing.
Hence, my puzzlement. But as luck would have it, I’ve now run into a few articles about digital advertising and apparently the problem is that advertisers are desperately behind the times when it comes to digital advertising. The key to digital marketing, everyone seems to agree, is targeted marketing, not random sprees. It’s hardly more expensive to send out the spam commentary to just blogs and discussion sites that will have the most interest. Hell, WordPress will tell you their fashion blog line-up for free. And hitting those specific audiences is likely to get a far greater rate of return than random mailings and ratchet up the company’s profile with their most likely customer base. But advertisers are not keeping up with how to use the technology, so ad revenues are down and tech companies like Apple and Google are stepping in and taking the advertising companies’ digital marketing business. And not surprisingly, these are also companies that have gotten very good at anti-viral and anti-spam defenses for their gear and clients.
So we may be seeing some changes in the next few years and perhaps spam requests for chats with imaginary folk selling lettuce grinders and diamond encrusted belt buckles will become a thing of the past. Which means that Cynthia will be more lonely. Go over to her website and tell her if you like her art on his blog. 🙂