Advertising: Death by Web 2.0?

Andrew Keen is a well known critic of the whole Web 2.0 user generated („communistic“) cult of the amateur that is shaping our media consumption („prosumption“) these days.

Now, on Ad Week, he contributed an Op Ed about Web 2.0 being the death of advertising. It is quite a rant, you’ll be amazed:

Web 2.0 is, in truth, the very worst piece of news for the advertising industry since the birth of mass media. In the short term, the Web 2.0 hysteria marks the end of the golden age of advertising; in the long term, it might even mark the end of advertising itself.

At first I thought he must be joking. And then I looked up his name on Wikipedia – finding out that he must be serious about these things.

Don’t get me wrong – the new media production and consumption setup has changed (and will continue to change) and has had an effect on the advertising business. But instead of complaining about it, we should look at the possibilities and opportunities of the new landscape.

Many of the new technology enabled trends are somewhat user friendly, if not at least user-centric. So why should we not adopt and keep them? Really, there is no time for complaining. It’s a no brainer, that (mostly) bad advertising was first to adopt the new setup. Now we should try to figure out how to continuously create good advertising given the new circumstances.

Let’s not sit there like the music industry (as Andrew Keen writes):

Evidence of the crisis of mass media is depressingly ubiquitous. The recorded music business is in free-fall, the tragic victim of mass digital kleptomania.

There are alternative ways to sell music, Steve Jobs proved it with iTunes. A much more user centric model. Might not yield as high a margin as selling CDs in heavy jewel cases transported across the globe, but that’s the way it goes. Horse carriages were out of fashion at some point, too. Musicians like Madonna and Radiohead seem to get it.

The next couple of quotes are amazing:

What Web 2.0 is doing, compounded by the online consumer’s shrinking attention span and his or her hostility towards the „inauthenticity“ of commercial messages, is radically deflating the value of advertising. […]

As the scarcity of mainstream media is replaced by the abundance of Web 2.0’s user-generated content, advertising itself is being painfully commoditized. […]

No new technology—neither the false dawn of mobile, nor the holy grail of personalized, targeted advertising—is going to save the advertising business now. No, the truth is that advertising can only be saved if we can re-create media scarcity. That means less user-generated content and more professionally created information and entertainment, less technology and more creativity. The advertising community desperately needs more gatekeepers, more professional creative authorities, more so-called media „elites“ who will curate, filter and organize content. That’s the way to re-establish the value of the message. It’s the one commercial antidote to Web 2.0’s radically destructive cultural democracy.

It almost sounds like advertising is a form of art worth protecting for its own good.

Instead, the value of the message should come from relevance, in terms of content, targeting and timing – and of course the creative idea! (This, by the way, has always been the case. But not all advertising in the past has had good content, targeting or timing. Nevermind a creative idea.) A valuable message should still resonate, even when surrounded by a cacophony of user generated clutter.

Only now it is not so easy to spread bad advertising any longer, because the audience has more choices and more control.

What do you think people have thought about bad advertising in the last 50 years? Yes, they fast forwarded, or got a new drink from the fridge, or switched the channel. Or cursed at the TV. Or flicked over to the next page. Bad advertising always existed, and yes, it has always been a pain.

Good advertising, however, has (almost) always found the attention of the audience. And it still does. It has even become a lot easier for the audience to seek and find the content of those campaigns that they’re really interested in. At any time of the day. And it has become much easier to share good advertising, forwarding the content, (clips, emails, site URLs) to their friends.

While Web 2.0 has made it much more difficult for traditional advertising mechanism to work or break through the increasing clutter, there is also a lot of opportunity, new ways for attracting and involving users. Sometimes even beyond what traditional advertising mechanisms are capable of delivering.

Facebook run of site ads cause problems for advertisers

Apparently, some advertisers in the UK were cancelling their adspaces on Facebook, because they were appearing next to dubious content – in this case a page of the British National Party – as I found in this post at Techcrunch.

It seems that Facebook (and probably most other social networking sites) are not able to book campaigns on specific pages (or filter out unwanted pages). But, as Techcrunch rightly writes:

It seems a little strange in 2007 that advertisers would have been naive enough to believe that a run of site style advertising campaign on a site as large as Facebook would not have resulted in advertisements appearing next to dubious content to start with.

This problem is not only Facebooks‘ problem. Any social network – may be even many of the other sites with user generated sites with run-of-site advertising – will have the same problem. These sites will need context sensitive filters to deliver the right ads to the right user generated content pages. And while this works fine for text based pages (Google is offering that already for their AdSence ad placements), I am not sure how you would do the same with images, Sound and video?

7 Tipps for viral marketing

The post is a little older, but nevertheless interesting. Thomas Baekdal lists 7 tipps for successful viral marketing. Since we were just talking about this in the agency, this reminds me of a certain serendipity effect. (Accidentally finding something when you’re in the right mindset.)

The 7 tipps are as follows:

1: Make people feel something
2: Do something unexpected
3: Do not try to make advertisements (that sucks)
4: Make sequels
5: Allow Sharing, downloading and embedding
6: Connect with comments
7: Never restrict access!

Of course there is explanations and examples to each one of these, so click yourself through here and take a look. Summarising, he writes:

There is a common message in all of these tricks. It is that you need to make it right – or not do it at all. Only the best viral marketing campaigns make it – the rest literally sucks.

This is very true and it is most likely the point which is the most difficult to sell to clients…

(hat tip to Todd)

Try Drugs Online

This is an excellent execution for an anti-drug campaign from Norway! Showing the effects of drug abuse by visualising the effects on the microsite itself – making it really „tangible“.
On the Marihuana example, everything is blurred and your mousepointer gets annoyingly slow, while it gets incredibly fast and uncontrollable in the cocaine example. And with heroine, everything on the screen looks really shaky and frightening.


The site also opens several pop-unders for bancruptcy sites, memorial sites, etc. all related to possible results of your drug abuse. And when you try to close an example, there is a mockup pretending to notify the police, displaying your IP number, internet provider, etc.

Really well done!

(found on Adverblog.)

Seven Brand and Marketing Trends for 2007

Robert Passikoff writes about seven brand and marketing trends for 2007

He starts of with a nice quote:

Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr once noted that “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,�

And then continues pitching his company USP:

but then he didn’t have access to predictive loyalty metrics. Happily, we at Brand Keys do.

The 7 trends are (*drumroll here*):

  1. An ongoing emphasis on “engagement.�
  2. More reliance on consumer-generated content.
  3. More, more branded entertainment.
  4. Media planning will become more “touch point� focused.
  5. Using technology and engagement to better communicate with consumer expectations.
  6. Expanding the potential of Websites, blogs, and the digital world.
  7. Innovation and loyalty will matter more.

Sounds good. But there is nothing really new in this. The only difference being, that these trends will probably now reach a certain visibility among marketers so that we’ll see a lot more campaigns, tactics, etc. around these 7 points. I am certainly looking forward to that.