Why I am back in advertising after 20 years

When I left the world of advertising in the nineties to embark on a career in journalism, I never thought I would return to it. But here I am, more than 20 years has passed and I am back in the world of Mad Men.

I loved advertising, but I yearned to work over the fence in the newsroom. Back then, advertising and editorial departments despised each other, not in a social, unfriendly way, but in the battle over space. Each were seen to be ‘stealing’ the limited space available from a finite resource.

One department wanted to fill pages with ads, and the other wanted to fill them with news and features.

And thereby hangs the irony of the advertising-editorial divide that exists in every paper. Advertising paid the bills, but it was the news and features which made people spend their money, either on their weekly dose of what was going on their community, or with the advertisers.

Computerisation – the desktop publishing revolution

It was my experience with computers that opened the doors into the newsroom. I was an early adopter of the desktop publishing systems that were infiltrating large newspapers. I immediately saw the opportunities this combination of hardware and software could bring not only to the provincial newspapers, but to businesses as a whole.

Suddenly, everyone had the tools to layout and print documents and publications. That doesn’t seem so special now, but back then, there were no laser printers, it was a noisy ugly, dot matrix printer or nothing.

The new hardware was expensive. More control demanded more power, and a single computer set up cost me around £12k in the late eighties, but it was my passion to be working in the media that made it a worthwhile expense. From here, I would carve out a new career first in advertising, then in training and finally in journalism, and I never looked back.

Going digital

When I later swapped print media for digital, every newspaper in the land was using this new technology, but there were new changes happening.

The internet was here, mobile was in its infancy and advertising was for big brands only.

However, they developed rapidly, and social media started to take a grip.

As all these new tools became increasingly important for businesses to get noticed, I had to develop my own skillset further to stay ahead of the game.

Designing for mobile meant using new ‘responsive’ design techniques. The rise of social media meant learning how businesses could benefit from this viral phenomenon, and a maturing advertising model meant acquiring new skills to manage the complex nature of pay-per-click.

Google’s advertising platform was already well-established when Facebook picked up the advertising baton and ran with it. And it ran fast and far.

Both giants of the internet now provide superb advertising opportunities, that cannot be ignored by marketers.

The ‘free’ option of organic search results and Facebook Business Pages are still available, but while they have their place, both require time and effort to get the desired effect.

When people pay me to market their business, I cannot afford to be a purist and say ‘we’ll get there, just sit back and wait’. If there’s an opportunity for clients to get what they want sooner rather than later, and are willing to pay, then they should be given that opportunity.

So here I am, back over the fence and knee-deep into advertising, with a new toolbox and I love it. The funny thing is that it’s not a jump backwards or sideways. Online advertising is now a must and businesses should have good, editorially-relevant content and effective advertising working together. Of course, that always was the case, but for small businesses it was a theory rather than a practice. Now it’s accessible to every business with ridiculously low starting costs.

The difference this time is that I didn’t leave one to pursue the other.  Advertising and editorial are much more aligned. There is no fence anymore, we are working together. Ads complementing press articles, driving blog traffic, giving us data to analyse.

The new tools of advertising

It’s safe to say that most of the advertising we do today is through Facebook

Businesses advertised in newspapers because they reached the people. Today, it’s sites like Google and Facebook that are reaching those people, and with the added bonus that ads can be targeted and performance can be measured.

I rarely see a business which cannot benefit from Facebook advertising. But back in the nineties you couldn’t stick any old ad in the paper and expect good results and you can’t do that today with Facebook. Some of the fundamentals I learned back then have never changed.

Each campaign needs careful consideration, proper planning, creative content (both for the graphic and copy) knowledge of demographics and Facebook’s placement opportunities.

Having Facebook certification means a thorough understanding of advertising products on offer and we will create each campaign to suit clients’ goals. Some of our clients have several campaigns running at once, targeted at different audiences through different media, eg, video, links, pictures.

Is it boosting posts?

People often ask if Facebook ads is the same as ‘boosting’ posts, but that’s just the surface. Boosting a post is an easy way for Facebook to make money, and gives the least flexibility for advertisers. This often leads to the impression that Facebook advertising doesn’t work.

The full gamut of options for advertisers are available through Facebook’s Ad Manager and Power Editor, both of which offer powerful tools for advertisers, both in execution and analysis.

When I started in advertising, I was given a book called ‘The Effective Use of Advertising Media’. I still have it, and there is no mention of the internet in it anywhere, it just wasn’t on the advertising radar in 1994. However, the book provides useful reminders of advertising tenets. The medium and tools may have changed but the emotional and psychology behind advertising is still very much rooted in the past.

I wonder if I can get it on the Kindle!