Commentary

I Hate Labels...

  • by February 14, 2005
Indulge me for a moment while I rant about a few things that are driving me nuts lately. Why is it that people feel compelled to label everything? Black, white, rich, poor, banker, lawyer, the marrying-type, the having-fun-type.

I recently checked the definition of "label" and here's what I found:

la·bel 1. An item used to identify something or someone, as a small piece of paper or cloth attached to an article to designate its origin, owner, contents, use, or destination. 2. A descriptive term; an epithet.

People can't seem to wrap their heads around something unless it has an assigned value to it - a neat little compartment where it can be placed. It's as if there's a little man standing next to a large file cabinet inside our brains asking, "Where would you like this filed Sir/Madam?"

This is especially true in the interactive space. Search, organic search, paid search, content, premium content, wireless, WAP (it stands for Wireless Access Protocol), blog, message board, Web site design, relationship marketing, CRM, direct marketing, direct response, rich media, and the list goes on and on. Everyday there's a new label, a new f&#Y$ing term that people need to latch onto in order to determine where it "fits." Enough already, seriously!

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Take the term "rich media," for example. Despite the fact that I'm writing for the Rich Media Insider, the term bothers me every time it's used. Rich media has become a catchall phrase for online advertising (e.g., Flash, PointRoll, Eyeblaster, streaming video, etc.), with the exception of GIFs, the old workhorse of the online advertising industry, until recently. What's the opposite of rich media anyway? Poor media? Does poor media live in the ghetto? Does poor media have trouble paying its bills because it can't find a job anymore?

So what's the answer? The answer is to focus on more important things like making the work great. We're a long way away from really good online advertising. I think the majority of Web sites suck. Very few sites have a true appreciation of consumer behavior (e.g., how consumers really process information and the best ways to pique their interest online). Even fewer online advertising campaigns understand how to pique consumer interest, and still fewer campaigns using rich media truly get it. What does it mean to "get it?" Good question.

First, interactive agencies need to get a clue about the business challenges and opportunities their clients are facing. This is followed closely by the objectives and strategy of the overarching communications program for said clients - not just the online one.

Having a broader understanding of the larger business realities will help make the online advertising program more successful. Ultimately, there are many ingredients to creating a successful online marketing program, but perhaps the most important one is to understand your audience.

Here's an experiment I encourage you to try. Sit behind a friend, family member, co-worker, or whomever you choose and watch them surf the Net. Watch their eyes as they scan a page. Decisions about what to look at, for how long, and which links or buttons to click are being made in a fraction of a second.

Creating a two-minute streaming video solution is not the answer, nor is an animated GIF banner that takes seven screens to reveal a pay-off. Get to your point and get to it quickly. Create something that jumps off of the page. Experiment with typography, colors, and photography. Ultimately, keep it simple.

The elevator doors are closing. What are you going to say?

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