i-74e300591bf1961f3142dfd27a8c8eeb-Old cig ad.jpg
Every day, I am inundated with unwanted advertisements. If I turn on my car radio to a commercial channel, the ads start squawking at me. If I turn on my TV and am not quick enough to the DVR, the ads start flashing at me. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle newspaper had its front page wrapped in a movie ad. And even though I’ve changed my email address recently, the spam messages for buying hot stocks NOW!! are relentless.

Yes, I realize that our media world would not exist without these unwanted ads. Who would pay for those commercial radio stations, TV stations and newspapers to function? And yes, it’s true that many people find these ads useful at some time in their lives. They happen to be shopping for a new car, and voila, Toyota is on the TV screen touting its new family sedan. But advertisers have paid a steep premium to make those happy accidents happen, to reach those coveted buyers at the right moment.

Google has made a mint and then some by simply putting advertisers into that sweet spot of a buyer’s mind right as they hit the search button for the keywords that matter to both parties. A search for Bermuda travel package puts buyers right in front of the advertisers at the perfect moment. And the buyers are not upset about the commercial messages, and actually welcome it.

Because I’ve invested so much of my energy in DVRs, iPods, pop-up ad blockers and the like, I wondered what it would take for an advertiser to actually reach me on my own terms. Rather than squawk at me, could they speak my language? Could they reach through to me in a welcome way? Here are some tips on how they might do that.

How to Give Me the Ad I Want

> Live in my world online. If I am on CNET or Gizmodo looking at gadgets, then I am accepting of ads that fit with that content. If I’m reading digital camera reviews, I am open to seeing an ad for a digital camera on that page. Heck, I might even read it.

> Let me play with the ad. I like what Chevrolet did with the Tahoe SUV ads, giving people video and letting them create their own ads — even when those ads were criticizing SUVs.

> Meet me at the purchase point. When I’m getting ready to buy something, that’s when I’m ready for your pitch. That means you should reach me when I’m doing web searches, browsing through Amazon, or heading to a bricks-and-mortar store. Direct mail and email spam almost never get that timing right.

> Keep your pitch focused. If you want me to pay attention, tell me what you’re really about and don’t use sex, violence or humor just to get my attention. (See the cigarette ad above for an old-school sales technique.)

> Stop using the words “sale” and “discount” and “clearance” all the time. Sure, discounts and sales are good, but if they are happening nearly every day are they really very special anymore? Give Wal-Mart credit for their “everday low prices.”

> Use people power. I will respond much better to ads sent to me by friends than by the advertiser. Make sure your best messages are forwardable by email or sharable online. Or you can sponsor podcasts where the podcaster crafts her own ad.

> If you’re going to use blogs, be honest on them. Nothing is worse than a promotional corporate blog filled with re-worded press releases. Be real and tell me who you really are and I’ll pay attention.

> Put some ad money into customer service. OK, this doesn’t directly relate to the advertisement, but I’d prefer to get better service after the purchase than a slicker pitch beforehand.

What items would you add to the list? What would make you want to check out an advertisement, and how do you think advertisers could better reach you in an age of personal media? Share your thoughts in the comments below. For a great “old way” vs. “new way” list of what advertisers should do, check out this blog post by Kathy Sierra at the Creating Passionate Users blog.

Photo of old cigarette ad by Lee Bey.