Everything You Knew About Advertising is BS


[…advertising-as-interruption is over. We connect brands to customers by telling engaging and entertaining stories that audiences actually want to hear. Imagine that!

Marketing has entered the post-advertising age. The new age’s defining feature is this: The only messages anyone will see and hear are the messages they choose to see and hear.

Here in the gulf between understanding and action, everyone talks about the “death of the 30-second spot.” But agencies are still pouring some $300 billion a year worldwide into those corpses. This makes traditional ads the most relentless and ubiquitous zombies since the 1968 premiere of George Romero’s epochal Night of the Living Dead.

Ad agencies are stuck to traditional advertising for a good reason: They make the bulk of their money from producing traditional TV ads. Never underestimate the ability of people to deny the truth if the truth will negatively impact their take-home pay.

The big agencies are even trying to put TV ads on the web.

And they suck!

Marshall McLuhan famously wrote in Understanding Media in 1964: “The medium is the message.” Those who put bad TV commercials (or good ones, for that matter) on the web are hoping that it will resurrect the corpse of the 30-second spot and make it relevant again. They apparently hope the relevance of the medium, somehow, will overcome the irrelevance of the message.

This, of course, is magical thinking. These days, the message is the message. The medium is just the carrier.

I could understand a Prilosec ad being served to me if I was searching for “acid indigestion” or anything that made it likely that I need Prilosec. But to play it to me because I clicked on a news item about Iraq is just silly.

We’re now in an opt-in culture. The only way to get (positive) attention is to create great media—desired content that is relevant, informing, entertaining and on-brand. Having a brand interrupt a narrative won’t work anymore, whether that narrative is a TV show or a website. The intruding message will be TiVo-ed out of existence, clicked away from, put in the junk folder and ignored. Intrusion is a totally dead model.


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