During my college days a common topic in my advertising class was ad clutter and the need to break through the clutter. Lets face it, ads are everywhere. Some are more subtle, like product placement and sponsored sports elements such as the Lifewise Most Dependable Player of the Game or the Oreo Dunk of the Game. Others are more blatant and noticeable, such as billboards, commercials and ads during online streaming of TV shows. In order to get people to notice you, your company, and your message you have to think of what has not yet been done in order to come across loud and clear. Recent examples of breaking through the clutter are the new ad formats that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are rolling out. Twitter is seeing an increase in product promotion by actors, athletes, TV stars and celebrities in general, as Adam Hochberg notes that “News Organizations Sign Deals for Sponsored Tweets, Then Do Not Participate In Them” http://bit.ly/hPjs7A. Sponsored tweets are becoming more commonplace as celebrities are paid several hundreds and thousands of dollars to endorse products. For instance, last year’s new AOL site changes were retweeted by people like comedian Michael Ian Black and reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Coincidently, a new hashtag has arisen to meet with FTC requirements and that is the #ad hashtag added to the end of all sponsored tweets. However, this model of breaking through ad clutter has some problems. Since #ad is a new hashtag it is not as easily identifiable and the sponsored tweets mimic the way the user talks making them more imperceptible. For these reasons and the type of community that exists on Twitter, this model will have a hard time taking hold and integrating itself into the mainstream of Twitter’s framework.
Then there is Facebook’s approach, probably one of the easiest to facilitate and turn into a workable model, largely because the companies themselves are in the driver’s seat. Ben Parr discusses how “Facebook Turns Friend Activity Into New Ad Format” http://on.mash.to/gzdYys by having companies sponsor a portion of likes, actions within applications, page posts and checkins. For example, a story appears off to the side with your friend’s status update “At Starbucks again with (insert friend’s name here).” Below that status is the Starbucks icon and an ad is made. Facebook earns money and companies earn more brand followers and customers. A win-win, unless Facebook ever allows users to opt out of their stories becoming public domain for these purposes (which I doubt they will do even with their increased privacy settings because they would lose money instead of gain it). Finally there’s LinkedIn’s approach which is more a series of targeted platforms for advertisers. Ian Sherr notes that “LinkedIn Pushes Ad Tools” http://linkd.in/htMKGE in two parts. The first is an application programming interface allowing large advertising agencies to connect to the site, and the second is a self-serve platform to give self-serve advertisers additional targeting options. This model too has flaws, as he cites one ad trial involving the start-up art dealership Artsicle.com. $400 later and two weeks in she had 17 LinkedIn users visit her site and none of them purchased art. Also LinkedIn, like Twitter, has a very distinct identity: one that is more ad-resistant. The reason why this model works better for Facebook is because its audience is composed of a wide range of ages and economic status. Facebook is also a more casual community whose purpose is simply to connect users. Twitter is more focused on spreading news and LinkedIn is for professional networking. All in all, an interesting way to break through the clutter but for Twitter and LinkedIn it needs more work.