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Earlier this week I received an (unusually) friendly mass email from the folks at Google AdSense. It reads, in part:
We understand that the recent economic turmoil has created a lot of uncertainty in the lives of AdSense publishers. During these difficult times, we’re continuing to invest in innovations that improve publisher monetization and advertiser value in the content network . . . The strength of AdSense lies in the value of the content you bring to users and the quality of the sites you bring to advertisers. Our success is tied to yours. We look forward to partnering with you for the long term, and remain dedicated to helping you succeed.
I’m not entirely sure what the intended effect of this letter was – perhaps it was just to put a smile on the faces of otherwise panicked publishers, or perhaps its the first sign that AdSense revenues for Q4 and beyond are way down. My take is that it is probably a little of both, but more the latter than the former.
Indeed, it reminds me of a great example of “bad advertising” from a great book: The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries. In it, they use the example of a full page “letter to America” advertisement that we often seen in major newsletters. These ads always appear as soon as a big corporation has done something naughty. In the olden days – when consumers still trusted advertising – a corporation could do a lot of damage control by publishing an apologetic letter from the CEO in major papers.
Today, the impact is often the exact opposite. As soon as you see an ‘open letter about the environment’ from an oil company or one entitled ‘our pledge about fair insurance’ from a health insurance company, you just assume that they are trying to cover up something. And so, when I see Google sending me a letter assuring me that ‘hope is on the way,’ my reaction is the exact opposite – things are only going to get worse, most likely both for Google and my little Web site.