The yellow shine of PPC.

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yellowpageslogoThere’s a lot of discussion out there on the difference and effectiveness of PPC versus good SEM strategies that rely more on organic tactics. For a decent explanation on the differences between the two, read this article. When companies plop down the greenbacks to rank higher on Google or Yahoo, you can bet they’re expecting more click-through traffic as well as buy-through traffic. There’s lots of data out there that points to the effectiveness of PPC and having a good PPC strategy is smart. But in my opinion, it’s just another tool in the marketing toolbox and should not be used willy-nilly. What I wonder about is the effect on a brand image when relying too heavily on PPC for a long period of time. Does it harm a brand? Does it look too much like a hard sell? Does it turn would-be brand evangelists off? I haven’t been able to find any data on this, but my gut instinct tells me it can deteriorate a brand image if PPC is used with a heavy hand.

Gather around children, grandpappy wants to tell you a little story. In my younger days working in the advertising industry, I remember freelancing at one very large ad agency where an entire floor was devoted to media planning and buying for telephone book directories. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe they employed all those people for yellow page advertising. A gentle-mannered ad exec explained to me that yellow page advertising was highly effective and clients got a great return on their investment. The exec went on to explain that yellow page ads didn’t cost much to produce and they were highly targeted.

As you can imagine, that same floor today is now filled with young segway riding e-marketers who are supplying their clients with the latest and greatest digital offerings; and not a yellow page in sight. Later that day I walked around on the other floors and I noticed a flurry of activity not devoted to phone books. In fact, there were a bunch of other floors in the building devoted to many other facets of getting the word out for their clients.  There were people working on television commercials, print ads, radio commercials, P.R., product placement and even a think-tank like group helping the client engineer and design new product offerings. The point here is that the telephone directory advertising was just one (very profitable) facet of reaching their audience. Just like how PPC should only be a facet, not the whole kit and kaboodle, of an online strategy. Right now PPC is in its heyday and remains a bright and shiny object for online marketers. Which is all good and well. I just hope they don’t let the shine blind them.

Enzo F. Cesario

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