The other day, I got an email from Google entitled “Reminder | Your $150 Google Ads credit is waiting.” Now, much like many of the people at Google, I’m a programmer. So, I quite often approach language in the same literal, rational way that programmers often do.
There’s this old programmer’s joke that I’ve probably mentioned before: A programmer’s wife calls and says, “On your way home, pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen.” The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.
I’ve seen a lot of criticism of that joke over the years, mainly asserting that no one would actually make that mistake IRL. And of course they’re correct. But that’s not why it’s funny — especially to programmers. It’s funny to us because the construct of the joke perfectly mimics that kind of logic flow found within computer code. Any experienced programmer has likely encountered logic errors just like this many times. You almost always have to be absolutely clear in the context of coding.
Which is why Google’s ad surprises me a bit. It wants us to go grab a $150 ad credit, and it appears like so:
It states that they’ll give you a $150 ad credit when you spend your first $150 with Google Ads. To me, that potentially translates like this:
- You incur a $150 balance on your Google Ads account;
- Google issues you a $150 credit because you’ve reached the $150 target they’ve setup;
- You presumably could then use the $150 credit to pay the $150 incurred;
- Thus, you’ve received $150 in Google Ads absolutely FREE.
Only, that would be an unfortunate misreading of the offer.
The tricky part is “when you spend your first $150.” What does that mean? I think it potentially could be read as “when you incur a $150 balance” because, once you have that incurred any balance, you technically owe Google that balance. In other words, you have “as good as spent” that amount. In programmer terms: “incurred = spent.” And this where the potential confusion stems from.
Furthermore, I think the word when is problematic here and also contributes to the lack of clarity. I think it should be after. That is, their copy should read: “We’ll give you $150 in ad credit after you spend your first $150 with Google Ads.”
To me, that would mostly clear up this potential confusion. And as such, the CORRECT reading of the ad translates as follows:
- You incur a $150 balance on your Google Ads account;
- You pay the $150 (and thus have spent $150);
- Google then issues you a $150 credit toward future advertising;
- You then run through that credit, having “spent” a total of $300 since the beginning. But you have received the second half as a credit and thus your final net cost for $300 is advertising is $150.
Bottom line: It’s NOT just a free $150 to use to try out Google Ads. It’s actually a half-price offer on $300 in advertising.
While I hope to have cleared up an issue that I suspect many will have with respect to Google Ads offers like this one, I think there’s room for some further discussion about online advertising — or even advertising in general. Clearly, it works for some people, as it’s ubiquitous. But, it doesn’t always realize a positive ROI. In fact, I actually wonder how often it does show a healthy ROI.
I remember in my corporate marketing years, I got a call from an ad exec at a business magazine. He claimed to have a last-minute space available — a full-page ad at half the normal cost. It was still something like $4,000, presented to me as an unbelievable deal. I said to the guy, “Well, if the page will be blank anyway, how about we try something new. Run the ad for me for nothing, and the first job we get over $4,000, we’ll send you a check for $4,000.”
He didn’t go for it, of course. Maybe he thought he could still sell it before his deadline. But, more likely, I think it was just a daylighting of the reality that, for many, advertising is expensive and just doesn’t work in terms of immediate ROI. If I’d spent $4,000, there’s no guarantee my phone would have rung with $4,000 worth of work. (And, remember, for actual ROI, you’d have to make back considerably more than the cost of the ad. Making a $4,000 sale from a $4,000 ad is a loss! So, my snarky offer was actually quite low and risky still.)
There’s that old trope of a drug dealer giving you the first taste for free. I don’t know whether that’s true IRL, but it makes sense. Show the product risk-free (let them take the drugs), demonstrate that it has a benefit (the drugs work), and they remain a customer (they’re addicted). (Sorry, that’s an indelicate example, I’m aware. But it’s also accurate for our purposes here.)
The advertising world can’t do that — even from Google, which is now worth in excess of one trillion dollars. Imagine that: One TRILLLION in net worth, and they can’t actually prove to the small guy (to whom such $150 offers are sent) that advertising on their platform works.
I’m not asserting that Google Ads (or any online ads) do not work or cannot produce results. I’m very sure that they do, so long as you (1) have a product that can actually sell, (2) has a margin healthy enough to allow for advertising to happen and still come out ahead, and (3) actually craft the ad well enough to be effective.
In the ad world, it’s on YOU to fund all of that and make it work. But boy, it’d sure be nice to be offered a little taste for free from a trillion-dollar company.
✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains three blogs — Hawthorne Crow, Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine, and Wonderful Words, Defined — and contributes to various Medium pubs. Connect at JPDbooks.com, Amazon, FB, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest screwball literary novel, CHROO, is a guaranteed good time.