04/21

Advertising is Dead; Long Live Advertising

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Interruption marketing is bad.

Right?

People hate ’em – those ads that stop you from enjoying the content you love – blah!

But wait, if this type of advertising is so bad – so hated, then how come there’s more of it now than ever?

There are more spots on TV than ever. In 2009, for example, cable networks averaged 14 minutes and 27 seconds per hour. Last year, the average was 15 minutes and 38 seconds.

Meanwhile there are more spots on radio than ever.

There are more spots on Pandora and Spotify than ever.

There are more spots on podcasts than ever.

There are more spots…er, underwriting announcements…on public radio than ever.

Remember when your email and your tweets didn’t come with ads?

And the ultimate interruption ad, autoplay video, is about to become ubiquitous:

Now Facebook is testing a continuous autoplay feature, serving up another video after the first one finishes. YouTube also started playing with this functionality late last year, serving up a new pre-roll ad before the next video in the series starts. Twitter is testing a general autoplay feature for some iOS users. Instagram and Vine have embraced autoplay. It’s becoming ubiquitous in the platform world.

I thought consumers were in charge? Don’t consumers hate this stuff?

“I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a backlash,” said Paul Verna, senior analyst at eMarketer, a media research firm. “There have certainly been some bloggers and commenters who have railed against the default use of autoplay, but autoplay seems to be winning.”

Advertising has always been and will always be a price not too high to pay for the content we value, even when it interrupts that very content.

As much as consumers hate spots, they don’t hate them so much to do without the content those spots make possible. So consumers are in charge, but as it becomes more impossible to route around advertising, there will be less routing around advertising (I’m leaving out the whole discussion of ad blockers here, which are a rising issue the ad community and content makers do their very best to ignore).

Like a kidnap victim who ultimately acquiesces to the will of his captor, so will we all.

Or the content will cease to be.

That means interruptions do not need to win Prom Queen in order to be deemed effective or desirable by the advertisers who use them. If advertising was simply about popularity, then every commercial would be built for the Superbowl instead of the super toilet bowl.

Indeed, forcing their way into our consciousness is irresistible for advertisers, not to mention for the media brands that take their dollars. It’s a system where everyone benefits, including consumers who get to have the content they want at somebody else’s expense.

In other words, advertisers don’t want to wait for your permission, and the “work” of permission is a tax many consumers prefer not to pay, instead submitting to a growing onslaught of messaging which isn’t nearly as painful as they claim it is.

It has been 16 years since Seth Godin’s seminal book Permission Marketing was published. There, Seth painted the difference between a value proposition based on securing attention by permission and capturing it with brute force by interruption, the advertiser’s traditional game.

And now, 16 years later, permission marketing abounds. How many times have you been asked to sign up for something in order to enjoy it or use it? But permission has grown alongside interruptions, not at their expense.

Never before have we had so many distribution channels driven by business models that place sponsors between consumers and the content they seek. The biggest YouTube videos have pre-rolls. The most popular online sites have a full screen ad blocking the content. Skip, skip, skip. I’m trying to skip as fast as I can!

Not fast enough!

That’s okay. Not so bad.

And now, back to our program.

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