Here’s what I used to think long, long ago, before I dipped my toes into the real-world:
When I see something stupid that means that someone, somewhere, made a stupid decision.
That feels like common sense, almost even tautological. If it is stupid, then someone did something stupid.
Oh, if only I lived in a world that simple!
To explain an alternative world view, let’s take an example very relevant to display ads:
When you see typos in an ad.
Like this ad, that I saw while online on my phone the other day:
What stood out to me about that ad is the obvious typo: find your quirks, talents and your “hidden weak.” Your hidden weak? What language is that? Not English!
Now, the younger version of me would have laughed. “Ha!” I would have thought, “The idiots [hired to write this ad copy] can’t even write a simple grammatical sentence!”
The older and possibly-wiser version of myself sees typos and wonders: is it on purpose? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps as the classic song goes.
Take spam, for example. Here’s a well-known fact: spammers put typos into their emails on purpose. What? Why? Because smarter people are more likely to use the typo as a marker of sketchiness and thus delete the email. But the less attentive people are the ones more likely to respond. Now that is targeting: the spammers want only the most gullible to respond, and typos help auto-select the less-gullible out of the target market.
The same goes for display ads. A few years ago, I ran an ad campaign for a travel startup and I made a typo in the ad, accidentally. I wish I could say it was a test on purpose, but alas, it wasn’t. But when I realized it, I ended up not fixing it but creating a new ad to A/B test against the original. And guess what? The typo version got more sales. Since then, I’ve recreated the results in some contexts, but not all. I would be hesitant to use a bank that had typos… maybe a typo causes a zero to disappear at the end of my account balance!
The conclusions here are two-fold. First, don’t take ads at their face value. Second, test, test, test. Maybe “mistakes” can help improve your conversion rate.
Morgan Friedman has been building and running Display campaigns on top of GDN Network of Adwords, err, he means "Google Ads," for almost 15 years. Friedman is, by nature, an obsessive optimizer, and has been A/B testing every obscure option, configuration, strategy, and tactic on Display Ads. Oh and search ads, as well as figuring out how to grow companies and politicians from just the seed to hundreds of thousands of users, or voters, as well. His favorite number is eleven. He enjoys writing about Managed Placements.