I Work in Advertising and Cannot Stand Most Ads

Hello Times Square. Unsplash/Wojtek Witkowski

But I still love advertising, especially Facebook Sponsored Ads. Here’s why.

by Iman Forde

No, seriously. I don’t listen to the radio so I’m not bombarded with unimaginative car dealership ads, I’ve installed ad blockers, I purposely record shows on my DVR so I can fast-forward through TV commercials, and I will happily pay a subscription fee to not have to deal with ads.

I think I reached my peak when I heard the same jingle of a certain auto store’s catchy, yet annoying, ad over my office’s Pandora. “If I hear this commercial one more time! Can we please shell over $9.99 to get Pandora Premium?! I’ll even pay for it so I don’t have to hear this ad again!”

“If I hear this commercial one more time! Can we please shell over $9.99 to get Pandora Premium?! I’ll even pay for it so I don’t have to hear this ad again!”

This frustration from being surrounded by ads that aren’t effective and just don’t seem to understand their target audience is pretty normal considering the way people, especially my millennial generation, are consuming media. Although the number of ads we are exposed to per day is up for dispute, there is no denying that due to the level at which we consume media, we are served a multitude of ads, ranging from Cannes Lion Award-winning work to a jingle-filled local car dealership radio spot.

Ok, I do a lot of joke-yelling at my office and it may seem dramatic, but bad ads tend to hit a nerve with me. Now back to the irony of my situation, which can best be described by one of my fiance’s recent remarks: “Why do you hate ads so much when you work in advertising?”

I love my job. I love the eccentric creative personalities that ad agencies bring together; I love the hustle and bustle of the industry. I even grew up with a creative director father, and sometimes spent weeknights in high school having dinner at his office when he worked late on pitches.

However, not all advertising is great, as many of you know. And in today’s modern media culture, we are empowered to avoid a lot of them. Most ads suffer from failing to uphold three tenets of good advertising:

  1. No capping frequency
  2. Bad creative
  3. Bad targeting

That aforementioned Pandora ad suffered from this: although catchy, the creative wasn’t the greatest, its frequency wasn’t capped and played too often, and its targeting wasn’t effective as it blasted in a millennial-filled ad agency where a lot of us do not even own cars and relying on ridesharing is the norm.

There is one type of advertising that does get it right, however, and I cannot get enough of them: Facebook Sponsored Ads.

I’m a huge sucker for Facebook ads, and my bank records are a testament to that. I’ve bought it all: Parachute towels, ThirdLove and Lively bras, Girlfriend Collective leggings, Schmidt’s deodorant, Soludos sandals, Brooklinen sheets, Society6 prints … This type of consumer trend has actually become quite common in our office as we regularly see packages being delivered from other Facebook-ad brands. You can even hear people exclaim, “Are those the Facebook (enter product here)?” nodding to the fact that we were all served similar ads that led us to make purchases.

What makes Facebook ads so effective is that they hit on all three tenements of good advertising, including clever creative.

THINX ads are beautifully art-directed and instantly catch the eye to the point where I’ve clicked-through their ads numerous times, although I still don’t really understand my need for their product and am fully aware of their recent PR fiasco.

Parachute’s ads often use the semi-deceiving tactic of linking real articles about their products in their ads so you assume you’re viewing an article, not an ad.

ThirdLove uses another tactic of advertising real (or “realistic”, who knows) reviews of their product in their ads to make their brand appear more real and approachable.

As brick-and-mortar stores continue to shutter and brands further shift attention to e-commerce, online reviews can make or break a product. I’ve been known to read thirty reviews and research several sites before buying a dish rack, so seeing positive reviews front and center appeals to like-minded consumers and streamlines the purchase process.

Although there could be even more work done to cap frequency, Facebook continues to have the upper hand vs. other platforms by allowing users to give real-time feedback on why a certain ad isn’t working for them. Users simply click “Hide Ad” and are met with the following questionnaire:

  1. “It’s not relevant to me”
  2. “I keep seeing this”
  3. “It’s offensive or inappropriate”

With those three questions and ability to manage your ad preferences, Facebook is on the lookout to improve its targeting, creative and frequency in real time. That instant feedback in turn provides them with better data about its ads and helps users feel empowered to have control in the ad-riddled world we live in by not necessarily saying “no” to all ads, but rather saying “no, not this particular ad and I’ll tell you why.”

Ads aren’t inherently bad, ads can be great, and without the need for a multi-million dollar Super Bowl budget (we even proposed in Ad Age what would happen if we spent a $5 million dollar Super Bowl budget on Facebook instead). To better serve their target, brands need to be smarter and more creative in the ads they create, as well as being more strategic about their target audience and how to reach them. Lastly, the days of bonking audiences over the head with the same ad are long gone. Consumers have found ways to easily tune out ads they don’t find relevant.

Sure, it’s a little creepy that Facebook uses my relationship status and interests to serve me ads, but a lot of us have succumbed to the fact that this is the world we live in now. If we can’t beat ’em, let’s at least help them serve us better.

And you’ll be happy to know I convinced our operations team to purchase a Pandora Premium account for the office.

Iman Forde is a Senior Project Manager at Mistress.