Why Online Ads Are Less Annoying and More Profitable than Other Ads

We live in a consumerist world. Everywhere we look, someone is trying to sell us something.The world tells me I need at least 100 new things on a daily basis. Lucky for most of us, we’ve learned how to tune out the noise, which is why targeted online advertising is a savior for many businesses.

Mostly, I just ignore ads. But, on occasion, I might like to know that there is a deal happening at the local spa versus a discount on power tools at the hardware store. This is the reason advertising on the Web using tactics like pay per click is a hundred times better than other types of advertising, and why companies should invest in it to replace some of their stale old ad campaigns.

Annoying Commercials, Billboards and More

I “get” that television is still the most popular medium for reaching boatloads of people at once with advertising. But, commercials are loud, intrusive and I usually just mute them or walk away altogether when they air.

And when I drive from Los Angeles to San Diego some weekends, I see countless billboards all with ads for products and services that I don’t need or would ever consider. (About 75 percent of them are advertising the lap band procedure … is there some Southern California-wide need for hard core weight loss at the moment?) [That or a lot of people looking for easy solutions. –Susan]


Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’ve actually never seen a TV commercial or billboard that has ever struck a chord with me – ever. (And frankly, billboards seem like a bit of a freeway hazard.)

This type of advertising is the most generic, catch-all type of advertising there is.

I often wonder after seeing a TV commercial if that’s what the “average” American cares about, how those people think and what’s a priority for them.

Is it just me, or do you feel like you don’t fit into the advertiser’s target demographic, either?

And I understand that the local pizza place down the street might have a deal it wants to share with passers-by, but the guy with the sign on the corner is really starting to creep me out.

At least with an ad on the Internet, I can ignore it or look away without any guilt. But when a dude with a sign and a psychotic smile — and eyes to match – is standing less than five feet from your window as you sit at the light every single day, and bends down and look straight into the car and wave until you drive off, well, that’s just bad advertising. Actually, it’s borderline disturbing. [Seriously, what is with that guy? –Susan]

It’s pretty much on par with the people that work in the kiosks at the mall who accost you with some sort of hand lotion or hair piece when you’re walking by. It’s intrusive, irrelevant and frankly, gives your brand a bad image.

Why Paid Search Rules and Sign Twirls Drool

All businesses have different goals. Pizza isn’t high-end retail, so branding may not be on the top of its list. For them, sign twirlers may be a fantastic idea. But regardless, there are so many better ways that local businesses could place their products in front of the right people.

a really bad sign

First let’s take a look at wasted ad spend. The salary of a sign twirler (aka “human directional”) is say, minimum wage. In California, that’s $8 per hour. Now, let’s assume said sign twirler is out there for two hours during afternoon rush hour every day for five days per week, promoting pizza.

That’s $80 per week, $320 per month. And don’t forget all the added costs of adding another staff member.

Think about what a pizza joint could do with $320 per month in paid advertising online. And that’s a conservative number, assuming the sign twirler doesn’t work more than 10 hours per week.

Considering how targeted your advertising can be online, especially in platforms like Facebook, you would potentially need hundreds to thousands of clicks (depending on the keyword) before exhausting a pay per click budget.

Of course, there are factors that must be taken into account when choosing online advertising over other channels. First, a business wants to consider the target audience — what type of people it wants to reach. Does the pizza place on the corner by me even know its demographic, or are they merely trying to catch locals coming home from work?

For businesses that hire human directionals, assess the ROI. Examine if the type of people that are reached through sign twirling is worth the investment. Sure, a pizza place passing by a sign may get the hungry person driving home from work looking for a quick meal – but how often?

If I owned the pizza shop, I would stop to think about what ratio of the people driving by a particular corner between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. actually see the sign twirler. And, of those people who see the ad, how many decide to go there for dinner that night?

Perhaps the pizza place believes that the sign twirling is more of a long-term exposure strategy by which it’s hoped that people remember the pizza place for a rainy day. I suppose it works on some level, because I remembered it enough to write about it. Although, I will avoid that pizza place altogether based purely on the fact that they have a creepy sign twirler.

Wouldn’t it seem to make much more business sense to market pizza deals to the people who you know like pizza at strategic times throughout the day? The types of people who are actively looking for a deal on pizza? If the answer is “Duh,” then online advertising like pay per click is the way to go.

Then we come to the other problem: How the heck do you measure the effectiveness of a sign-twirler, a billboard or a television advertisement? Sure, there are all types of fancy marketing calculations that estimate the ROI of intangible measurements, but we’ve progressed in online marketing.

While it may still be challenging to measure conversions that directly relate to revenue in paid search, at least you have more control as an advertiser over who sees the ad, what’s working and not working and more.

The poor pizza place on the corner will never know that I think their sign twirler is a creeper and therefore, that’s why I will never buy a pizza from them. And if they hire a new, better sign twirler, they’ll never know that it’s the reason I actually pulled in one night after work for pizza.

In the world of online marketing, it’s harder and harder to justify marketing spend on campaigns you can’t track with metrics and analytics. It’s almost an unreal notion that businesses still spend tons of money on outdoor advertising, hoping someone who might be interested in that product or service might see it and might be in the market for it. So silly, in fact, that Google fabricated a blimp advertising service as an April Fools’ Day prank.

Merchants: Where to Begin with Paid Search

The unknown world of managing online advertising can be a scary one; which is why some businesses would likely rather hand over a twirly sign and a paycheck and be done with it. Luckily, there are tons of resources for local businesses to get started.


First, let’s assume that someone looking into paid search already has a presence online; at the very least, a Google Places page and/or Facebook profile, if not a website.

Without a landing page of some sorts, paid search is lost time and money. If you’re a business without any of those, some of the resources below can get you started on that.

Paid search and online advertising can include a host of tactics – anything from ad banners to pay per click to Google Boost to Facebook Deals for local merchants and more.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves if you’re new to it. Let’s focus on the basics for now. It’s all a means of putting your business in front of the people who matter.

Google Advertising

Facebook Advertising

Additional Resources

So businesses, before you drop a ton of money on a billboard or “human directional,” consider online advertising as a means to put your business in front of the people who care. You have less of a chance of wasting ad money and an opportunity to transition the fate of your ad campaign from the hands of your psychotic sign twirler into yours.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (4)
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4 Replies to “Why Online Ads Are Less Annoying and More Profitable than Other Ads”

i like this article a lot, but for instance when marketing the pizza, is it really a product that should be marketed online? i mean pizza is that type of product that focuses more on impulse buying. One would not be online looking for pizzas right? I do agree that online marketing can target more specific and accurate though.

Hey thanks for the comment! You pose a good question. I don’t think pizza is always an impulse buy (because people who eat pizza don’t usually just eat it once in their lives — they will buy it at some point in the future and they are probably aware of this).

But let’s say it was an impulse buy. Online ads are actually more targeted to those people who you know like pizza and may want to get it for dinner later.

You can present offers and discounts to the people in your community at specific times in the day (say, through a Facebook ad), just like a human directional would, but unlike the crowd that drives by a human directional, you know you’re targeting people online who like, eat, buy and are looking for discounts on pizza.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the success rates of human directionals and specific businesses or offers.

Hopefully talk soon!

Permission Marketing vs Interruption Marketing. The world changed. Seth Godin has a great book on Permission marketing. I am lucky I am Gen X so that I can accept internet advertising. A lot of baby boomers can[t accept the facts and their business closed.

Thanks for that — I am going to look into that book!


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