I had a fascinating breakfast meeting this morning with a new friend and the central topic of conversation was the latest death of advertising as we know it. I know this is not a new topic for those of us in the digital space. This article from Wired Magazine is eight years old now, and it’s already largely outdated. Every new technological breakthrough claims to be the only way forward, and usually they are partially right.
We are now at the time of total, ubiquitous mobility, social integration, and digital video. The notion of how people consume “advertising” is shifting rapidly as platforms change. But that’s only part of the story. What else is contributing to this amazing decompensation of the media industry and its ad-supported business model?
What we decided was a true shift in thinking this time was that the 20th-century notion of media-controlled messaging, the kind that pitches features and benefits in some forced-upon format (print ads, video-pre-roll, banner ads, sponsorships, etc.), was truly collapsing now. Advertisers are running away from print-based campaigns. Digital click-through rates are abysmal. Pre-roll and mobile ads don’t seem to be penetrating as quickly as the growth rates for their media are. Why is this? It can’t just be platforms–they change all the time. What else has changed that keeps advertisers from adjusting appropriately this time?
We decided that in the age of true social media adoption, where the tools to share with our peers are almost completely integrated with the platforms we use to communicate, advertisers are now seen as true interlopers, charlatans, and carnival barkers. What little trusted-source credibility they may have still had has now been almost completely eradicated. If a marketing department wrote it, we don’t trust it. If they put their logo next to it, it feels cheaper now, somehow more desperate. We are too busy asking each others’ advice and checking things out ourselves to spend any time listening to advertising marketing-speak, concocted value propositions, and false promises. We want proof. Validated, peer-reviewed proof. These advertisers have largely failed to see this coming. Campaigns are still oriented around brands talking and selling, not listening and engaging. We just don’t believe any of it anymore.
What we DO believe is real people, sharing real stories, real looks into businesses, and things that resonate. Do I feel better after having watched/read/listened to that story? Do I trust that person more after hearing their story? Have they SHOWN me why what they do is better? Do I see myself participating in what they have to offer? If the answer is yes, than the company just successfully advertised to me, without having to lie, “create a call to action,” “close the deal,” “improve their click-through rate,” or interrupt me.
The future belongs to the consumer. The mobile, socially-connected, trusting-but-opinionated, engaged, impressed, enchanted consumer. Why can’t companies see this?