Thursday, March 20th, 2008
A reporter quizzed me about what’s ahead for advertising in coming years. Here’s a summary of what I told him:
a) Shilling. Social media, p2p publishing, crowd-sourcing, blogs, comments, video, Netflix ratings, social networking… nearly everyone online is creating content in one form or another. As “audiences with audiences” become the norm and conventional one-to-many media is dwarfed, companies will increasingly seek to buy or co-opt individual spokespeople to carry their message covertly or overtly. The temptation to do this covertly is huge, since non-disclosed proselytizing has a bigger impact. But obviously this is horrible civics, and shilling rots the public discourse. Companies nudging the industry down this slipperly slope include Payperpost (recently renamed to hide their business model) and BzzAgent.
b) Pay-to-play. With online content doubling every 18 months (Google estimate), we’ll see the volume of information grow 100 fold in the next 10 years. If you think our infosphere is noisy now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. To penetrate the chaos, more companies will pay carefully targetted consumers to get their attention. Here’s $500 to test drive this car. Here’s 20 cents to listen to this song. It’s the model folks use to market time-shares, but with lots more algorythms and subtlety built in.
c) Advertainment. We’ll see more advertiser-authored fictions that seek to entertain even as they deliver a kernel of a commercial message. This means ARGs like AudiA3 and Beta7, or videos like Tea Partay and Subservient Chicken, or more serious stuff like BMW films.
d) Networked advertising. Advertising will become network-based as opposed to channel or individual based. Background: advertising was previously conceived and delivered either per channel (for example via a particular publication or TV show) or per individual (ie through direct mail or micro-targetted online ads.) The emergence of millions of vibrant and interlocking social networks — everything from Facebook to DailyKos to PerezHilton to Twitter to Boingboing to WorldofWarcraft — means that marketers can aspire to connect with people as social beings. Why is this revolutionary? Many purchases are made socially: you decide what car to buy based on what friends are saying; you pick your t-shirt based on what certain friends are wearing. I’m not sure how that translates for your article, but it’s the Big Picture. The ad for Secret Lives of Women, now running on PerezHilton, is a stab in this direction — an advertiser’s attempt to connect with a particular very densely networked community of 22-30 year-old-women in exactly the community and style they already inhabit on a daily basis.
e) You build it, you buy it. We’ll see more companies work with the reader/audience/consumer to build a brand or product. The premiere example of this is threadless.com; the threadless community creates t-shirt designs, votes on t-shirt designs and then buys those same t-shirts. Blogads.com’s logo was created by our users and voted on by our users in 2005. Though at the time I hated the design, today its a huge hit and people beg for our t-shirts. Think Move-on’s Obamain30seconds. Or in a stretch, think Amazon Kindle, in which Amazon has consolidated all the market intel it has gathered peddling other people’s products to build its own sellout gadget. People are more excited about buying things they’ve built AND stuff they’ve built usually fits their needs far more powerfully. The marketing and the manufacturing become a continuum.