Traditional Advertising May Just Die
A certain part of advertising will likely never die off. It’s the type that made the first bird tweet and show off its plumage to say to a prospective mate, “Hey, I’m over here!” That is the essence of advertising. We’re here. Take notice! But unlike the birds, we don’t know when to stop or even which species we are going after so we carpet bomb the world with ads and spam.
We are approaching a time of diminishing returns for advertisers, where it can often cost more to run an ad than the the ad brings in revenue. We’ve already hit that point as most people who have tried to buy keywords on Google knows—rarely do you make more than Google made on you and that’s just nonsensical money down the toilet. Google thanks you for your bucks!
But it goes well beyond the Google money pit. We’ve had enough! We are now bombarded by some estimates with 5,000 ads PER DAY! Essentially, ALL advertisements have become a form of spam, no matter how fancy and creative they may be. Even ads that are perfectly targeted to your demographic of one are annoying, if not for the fact that someone out there knows what you like and are interested in without you telling them.
What they don’t know is how much I loathe their ads, how much money I have (to spend on their product) and my shopping mood so they just keep cramming the same ads into my eyes wherever I go, hoping I will relent. I won’t and it makes me only dislike your product the more you try to hard sell me. It’s like a million used car salesmen everywhere you look. But at least in that case it’s a real person trying instead of some cold algorithm stalking you around the Internet and apps. Ads are getting a bad reputation and we’re mostly not buying what you are selling, folks.
So what do we do? We ignore them, we scroll by, we fast-forward our DVR’s past them, we delete the spams, anything but give them our precious time and attention. More than that, we do research when we are interested in something and try to find real users of a product who have real opinions. But even this simple task is clouded with lies and fake reviews. I recently bought bluetooth headphones that seemed to have great reviews and then when it arrived there was a card I could fill out for a $20 rebate if I left a 5-star review on Amazon. Paying me to cheat other potential customers! I felt duped. I was duped. It’s not even that the headphones are bad, it’s that they are cheating and perhaps kept me from looking for even better headphones.
How many times have you clicked on one of those desperate series of sensational photos with the big NEXT button and each time you hit next you are served up a disgusting mishmash of ads that fill every void on the page like vermin. Of course just by looking I gave that website some revenues by boosting “impressions” a measure of when an ad is shown to some eyeballs. I make it a point to bail quickly from such pathetic attempts and I make a point to not click any of the ads and boost their revenues further with “clicks,” the next level above impressions.
Every void in time and space has been filled with advertisements, be they repetitive TV ads, billboards, signs, banner ads, Social Media interruptions or Google keyword ads and more. It’s so pervasive that it must be running on a theory similar to the one used by spammers: if we put it up enough times some tiny percent of the audience is going to get suckered in and buy something like that one person who gave all their money to a Nigerian Prince somewhere out there and emboldened spammers to double down forever. The sad thing is so much of this is simply automated to fish for your clicks and attention. Algorithms and servers churn away and “tag” you with an identifier that follows you around the web because you gave it away at some point.
Every time we relent, we reward this behavior and embolden advertisers to continue and to find new ways to invade our minds and eat away some of our time. It’s not healthy. In fact it’s sick behavior. Who would want to have someone over to your house who kept repeating themselves hour after hour, singing the same tune, saying the same words every few minutes? You’d kick them out and never invite them back but this is exactly what we are subjected to. Watch your favorite news show and you will see the same ads over and over with the sinister intent of burrowing into your mind so you can’t forget it. It’s an egregious invasion of the privacy of your thoughts. Such mindless repetition should be illegal. It only angers and gives one antipathy toward the product they are so desperately hocking. Yes, I will remember your product for my “Do Not Buy” list, my “Do Not Ask My Doctor About” list.
But of course, I have brilliant friends in the ad business, and myself have been, and I’ve also been a business owner trying to get attention for my software products so I’m not actually opposed to the concept of advertising, only the methods employed. And those shows need funding to afford all the required things that go into producing shows and getting on networks and such although some part of me asks, why do I pay for my cable AND get bombarded by ads so, in effect, pay to be bombarded because when I was a kid, TV was free and it made sense for someone to pay for it. But now imagine all those subscribers out there paying for what used to be free millions of times over and it seems like they could at least reduce the number of ads, but no, more and more are added. First YouTube had the little banners. Then the “Skip in 3,2,1. Then you must watch this entire ad. Then two ads. Then interrupt your content at an annoying time with a forced ad. Etc.
So what is the proper way to get attention for your products and services then, without turning your viewers into adversaries to be conquered by endless repetition? One way is to create more variations on ads so that they are not so predictable. Quit relying on the old adage that if you repeat something umpteen times, they will remember. They may just remember what annoyed them and not have a warm and fuzzy feeling like so often happens to me. Try to be more human and less desperate for attention. Tell more stories. Turn ads into “mini-series,” not once a month but several a night or day. Keep people engaged on a human level not just as victims of your megaphone moment you bought. Use more artistry, more creativity. Stop thinking the old way!
I once invented something called Dynamic Non-Repeating Advertising (DNA) that used algorithms to generate new ad material using random numbers and you literally couldn’t predict what it was going to show next which was engaging. What’s more, the amount of variation could be carefully controlled within branding guidelines or it could be wilder and the brand was merely the cool sponsor of the content. I envisioned a Times Square billboard that was always changing, never repeated and kept people wondering what was next, something the producers couldn’t even predict because of the random numbers generated in real-time by a computer. With AI, now the possibilities are even more vast for truly engaging experience but it requires a whole new advertising paradigm that doesn’t rely solely on pre-determined, meticulously crafted pablum but rather a set of rules to create said “pablum” in a more interesting and lively way that doesn’t feel so dead.
Even better are the companies that are so good and don’t even need to advertise except by word of mouth such as Tesla does. I don’t remember seeing a Tesla ad but I totally remember they make great electric cars because I’ve heard many people say it. That all advertisers really need and it saves a boatload on expensive advertising and allows them to lower their prices or make a higher margin on the same price. A win-win.
If you are going to advertise to us, make it look and sound better and stop hitting us with soul-killing repetitive droning content that annoys.
We All Should Own Our Content
I believe and have written about how Social Media will undergo a major transformation from large conglomerates to millions of Template-based Private Networks owned by the people and their friends. Who wants Facebook or Twitter to forever own all their content of text posts, images and videos they’ve uploaded? Ideally, you would own ONE repository of your content that you could own for life and could be a basis to construct your life story. We should all own our own content, no matter where it’s being viewed. That is way more efficient than storing it on many hard drives, iCloud, Google Drives, Drop Boxes, Amazon Drives, YouTube, etc. Network access could then be granted to display items or text from our personal archive. Not only do we pay one way or another (time or money) for these various services to store our content but they have full control over what we created.
I feel there is a case for our government to provide this service as a part of National Infrastructure and it would create a National Archive of the citizens of the nation, both ordinary and extraordinary. It would have great historical value as the nation aged. We would, of course, have the right to erase or prune our personal archive at any time, including upon end of life or at the request of someone with power of attorney for up to 75 years at which time they would become Public Domain.
This would then lead to my next idea where we were no longer being monetized by 3rd parties but instead monetized by ourselves.
Advertisers Should Pay Us to Advertise to US
Imagine if instead of advertisers paying Google or Facebook or Twitter to advertise to you, they paid you! Simply cut out the middle man. But instead of bombarding us with ads for things we weren’t interested in we could pick the brands and products we were actually interested in or liked. Social Media and Search Engines try to do this by watching our every like and click so they can slot us neatly into a demographic that they can monetize to potential advertisers. That’s a slick way to use people and not pay them and it works since these are among the richest companies in the world. Why should the “channel” get all that money and not us? They will say because we built the channel and it cost a lot of money. I say that’s why we need it as part of our National Infrastructure so WE own the channel through our taxes as we own our content too.
I don’t have diabetes and neither does anyone in my house so why should we see ads targeted to diabetics? If I were unfortunate enough to come down with a form of cancer or some disease then I could enter it into my advertising profile and it might make sense to put those materials in front of me. Even then, I want to be able to dismiss an ad in several ways:
- Remind me later
- Disturbs me
- Not interested
- Not relavent
- Never show it to me again
- Don’t show more than once per _____ (hour, day, week, month, year)
Since we are the client in this paradigm, they sure as hell better listen to what we want and don’t want poluting our eyes and ears and taking our time. We should be able to take a survey about any ad we see as to the wording, the content, the music, etc. so we can train advertisers to conform to our likes instead of get spoon fed whatever they cleverly put together. They wouldn’t have to react to us but they could certainly use the information we gave them if they wanted to keep us as a client.
Technically, this is easily achieved in every medium and channel by simply identifying our interests (attached to our ONE blockchain anonymous profile) and then by authenticating the targeted person or persons. But even better, is we can all have Digital Bank Accounts linked to our private advertising networks or television set top boxes and can get paid some fraction of money every time we are asked to view an ad. I guarantee if we were paid for our clicks, they would get a lot more meaningful clicks and sell a lot more products. We could even have it so if they wanted to advertise to us outside our interests (generic advertising), we could even allow that—for a premium cost. All of this would be absolutely decoupled with our actual identity and the advertisers would be blind to the identity of end-users. To them would would simply be user “1845fu5982zx” and they would only be advertising to an interest group, not a person. If they were successful and we ended up buying their product, they could then learn our identity in some sort of registration we participated in but even that is questionable in today’s privacy-minded world. Perhaps we should remain an anonymous identifier.
Even in Public Spaces such as a stadium or an airport, we should get credits for being advertised to. Just because we are in a public space doesn’t give free reign to companies to bombard us without paying us. With today’s smart phones it’s a no brainer to give us proper credit based on our location. For example, if an advertiser paid to have a spot running in Times Square, they would have to pay the owner of the display something and then anyone who was in the viewing area would be given a fractional payment as well. These amounts could all be adjusted to make economic sense. Just because you own a building and a display in Times Square doesn’t give you a right to make money off MY eyeballs that happen to be walking by on the street below. Same applies to billboards that pollute our cities and highways with eye pollution. Even if it’s just a nickel, it adds up and giving everybody skin in the game is more fair and more fun for everybody.
Advertisee Bill of Rights
As advertisees, the targets of ads, we should all be legally afforded a set of rights that must be adhered to:
- The right to opt in or out of private advertisement topics, brands or companies (things done on a personal level)
- The right to dismiss particular private ads we don’t want to see
- The right to comment on and critique ads
- The right to opt in or out of being paid for being advertised to
- The right to set our price for being privately advertised to. Setting it too high is simply a way of saying don’t advertise to me if you can’t afford it. This is akin to setting up Google Ad Words for oneself.
- The right to not be personally identified or tracked by 3rd parties
- The right to manage and modify our advertising profile at any time
None of this in any way kills or even hurts the advertising industry. It simply changes the nature of how they do business and holds them to a higher standard of creativity and collaboration with their new clients as well as their old ones.