As eyeballs and earlobes move away from traditional media, it will the challenge to advertisers to move to where the body parts are. After decades of selling to a relative few number of media outlets, advertisers will be chasing down consumers all over the web and the world.
This will lead to a serious challenge as the places where the kids — and let’s be honest, advertisers remain stubbornly stuck in a world-view where only kids have cash for discretionary spending — hang out are not necessarily as family friendly or wholesome as advertisers prefer. When you’re beholden to shareholders, you cannot, for example, advertise on a site that extols the virtue of pot smoking. Even if the audience captured (and retained) by that site represents the nadir of marketing goals that can be achieved.
This is the problem with MySpace, Facebook, and just about every blog worth noting. In the past, advertisers had sufficient clout to, if necessary, control the message. Television networks were more likely to bow to advertisers pressure than politicians spouting off about “family values”. If you couldn’t sell the spot, then you might consider changing the content.
Try telling your average blogger that you’ll buy ad space if he or she will eliminate the drug references in a post. It’s not just that some bloggers enjoy a bit of deliberate provocation, it’s that there’s a serious grassroots backlash against the squeaky clean, tell-it-like-it-should-be approach offered by traditional media. Lack of thoughtful reporting coupled with a parrot-like approach to regurgitating press releases are driving readers/listeners/viewers to alternate sources of information.
Last year, when it was announced that advertiser-friendly zones were being carved out in the MySpace, it was because major advertisers were approaching one of the top web destinations with caution. You can’t blame them. Would you want your name associated with some of the content on the social network? In so many ways, MySpace is absolute proof that humans haven’t evolved nearly as much as we’d like to pretend.
But MySpace is only one leg in what is the next — and possibly longest sustained — move in Internet trends. Social networking, on both macro and micro levels, is truly the killer app of our world. We’re connecting with each other on lots of different levels, and advertisers want a piece of it. The biggest challenge they will face in the coming future is the reconciliation between image and page views.
You have to go where the crowds are, not where you think they should be.
Personally, I think the most dramatic shift in advertising will be a serious, concerted move toward micro-advertising. Right now, there is a belief that more is better, but we all know that the ubiquitousness of advertising has created a sort of blindness in consumers. Nobody watches television for the commercials.
However, pointing advertising toward specific, well-targeted audiences is a far better, though definitely more labor-intensive, approach. It is the complete opposite of today’s scattershot approach. And it means deciding if selling products to consumers trumps corporate squidginess about questionable content. Language and message cannot be micro-managed. Many bloggers are eager to make money, sure, but most bloggers aren’t getting rich off what they’re doing today; money comes in many ways. Advertisers are a key component to the economic model, but they’re not the end-all and be-all when it comes to creating, producing, and launching content.
Put another way, the costs of production and distribution have fallen to the point where advertising support isn’t needed.
Here’s hoping this means I never have to watch another Carl’s Jr. commercial again.