One reason Google has been so successful is that it has shown a genuine respect for its customers.
"Google's fourth-quarter revenues were up 18% to $5.7 billion, a solid showing," Fortune reported in January 2009. The article goes on to state that "Google is transferring almost half a billion dollars in wealth from shareholders to employees," as a motivation and retention strategy.
Yahoo, on the other hand, "has frozen annual pay increases for its employees as the Internet company battles with a difficult online advertising market," Reuters reported in January 2009.
Google and Yahoo operate in the same online advertising marketplace. So, why is Google's revenue up 18 percent, while Yahoo continues to struggle?
I visited the Rolling Stone website recently. I saw a link for "Best albums of 2008" and clicked on it. The page I arrived at was totally dominated by a large ad flashing repeatedly in fluorescent green, screaming out at me: "THIS IS NOT A JOKE. Congratulations you've won." There were two buttons underneath this statement. "Click here to join" and "Cancel".
How could a company like Rolling Stone put an ad like that on its website? To me, Rolling Stone is a reputable, trustworthy brand. On seeing that ad I was shocked that Rolling Stone would stoop so low, would treat its customers as such fools. It will be quite a while-if ever-when I go back to the Rolling Stone website.
The experience at Rolling Stone reminded of an excellent and shocking article I read by Benjamin Edelman called, "False and deceptive display ads at Yahoo's Right Media."
"Given limited enforcement of restrictions on deceptive online advertising, numerous banner advertisers are willing to resort to trickery to draw attention to their offerings," Benjamin writes. "And plenty of web site publishers stand ready to run deceptive ads. But widespread distribution of deceptive ads also requires another crucial input: intermediary ad networks to broker ad placement and tracking. Key among these intermediaries: Yahoo, whose Right Media marketplace facilitates so much of this traffic that Right Media classifies advertisers' deceptive tactics into dozens of detailed categories."
Not alone does Right Media condone deceptive advertising but it actually seems to encourage it. "Right Media encouraged publishers to accept ads tagged with negative categories," Benjamin states. "For example, in a 2006 message to Direct Media Exchange publishers, a Right Media staff person commented that ads in the "'free' and similar representations with NO disclosure language" category "can get a lot of clicks and conversions and should probably be allowed" -- completely ignoring the ads' tendency to deceive and their apparent violation of applicable FTC requirements.
"As to ads that are difficult to close or exit, the Right Media staff person encouraged publishers to ignore the problem since publishers get paid no matter users' experience: "It is something that may affect the user after they click the ad, but won't create undesirable behavior on your site."
Too much of old marketing saw the primary purpose of advertising as to deceive, manipulate and trick. But marketing doesn't have to be that way. Google is proving that the greatest and most profitable advertising of all is that which customers find useful.