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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Thu. Jan 16, 2003

Not Quite Dead Yet

Not Quite Dead Yet“The airwaves belong to the people dammit.” Melanie is on a tear, and she closes “Topic One” with that precious and quaint thought. One hesitates to abuse the notion, as it would seem as mean as declaring there’s no Santa Claus.

But that is not the rant we are here to rant about. This is: “The fact is, advertising is a dying field.”

Whoa, Mel, surely you’ve seen Minority Report. The future is awash in advertising, most of it personalized to the individual based on a retinal scan as they pass by. I joke (though Spielberg did consult with 20 “futurists” on their views), but there’s a core truth within; as technology advances, advertising seeps into and exploits every crevice. The evidence is in the very device by which you are reading these words. A mere seven or eight years ago, it was not a potential way to reach a customer, certainly not in any numbers. Today, it is a primary way. For every company that is launched and every movie that is made, there is a web site to advertise it.

Who is to say what’s seven or eight years further down the line? What technologies will advertising have exploited in 2010? Shall we place bets on motion advertising within heads-up displays on the windshields of Manhattan taxi cabs by 2011?

And to those who might argue that advertising has been an abysmal failure on the web, I would have to ask, have you visited the sites of Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, or Macromedia? Was it for entertainment? Have you used Amazon.com, or eBay, or Yahoo? All of these sites, in one way or another, are about selling goods. Advertising. Marketing. The failure rate on the Internet has not been much greater than the maxim the SBA has preached for decades: 80% of business start ups will fail in the first five years.

“Having reached its zenith in the late 20th century, I predict the luxury item of the 21st century will be an ’ad free experience’. Everyone will want one. The ’spot free show’ is only the latest attempt by programmers to combat those pesky pdr devices and soothe consumer burnout resulting from brand bombardment. What amazes me most, is that the advertising industry, supposedly populated by marketing savvy, research driven, creative professionals, has been in complete denial about this trend. Meanwhile, commercial television is feverishly shaking the bushes for anything that works.”

When did pop up ads first appear? In the post-dot-com-crash ad-rate-crash, causing those within that niche industry to shake the bushes for anything that worked. Thus, pop up ads, pop under ads, flash ads that mask content until closed, and other ploys that generally irritate the viewer. But at some small percentage, they must be working, or they’d go away. Can the industry come up with better innovations? I certainly hope so, but it is an evolutionary process, a trail to be littered with failures. However, the effort is there.

And it’s not just the web, or television. Reecie has her say: “Television is only one medium. I work in advertising, and what I’m seeing is that most of the real innovation and creative thinking these days is centered around other ways of delivering the message. There are loads of ways to reach the consumer.”

And loads more to come. She makes another point that hits me right in my computer chair: “As regards television, I think selective viewing will be the norm sooner than any of us would have believed.” Here at Bunker PD, it already is! I have a two monitor setup, with the secondary monitor to the right of the central one. To the left is an opening by which I can view the TV about ten feet away. It is almost like a third monitor in my field of view. The TV is always on here, and at times I even control the remote (but not much). I view it very selectively. I tune out that which doesn’t interest me, be it program or commercial.

If the commericials become embedded in the programs, then it will probably become much like the way I view billboards … not at all. They are visual clutter that I hardly even recognize any more. Why? Because they are irrelevant and inappropriate to the reason I’m seeing them … I’m driving! I think much of the future technological innovation in advertising will be in finding ways to supply it at the appropriate time, near the point of purchase, or upon a very trivial demand … “Let’s check out plasma TV’s.”

The truth is, we all want advertising. We just want it specific to our interests, and only on demand.

“From where I sit, it’s television—at least television as we’ve always known it—that’s dying. But, honestly, even that’s too harsh. It’s not about death, it’s about evolution/change. Those who accept and embrace change will always be the ones left standing.”

Most especially during times like these. I’ve been in one form or another of the advertising business since 1977. Whenever there is a recession, the ad business is the first to take the hit, and among the last to begin the comeback. Each time, “this is the worst it’s ever been.” But this time, it’s ringing awfully true. In any downturn, there’s a weeding out of competition, a trimming of the fat from times of excess. This time, the cuts are to the bone. Good people of long tenure are leaving their fields. There’s more than a trimming of fat, there’s a brain drain, often due to basic economic necessity.

But there’s also those who rise to the occasion, who shrug off “that won’t sell anymore” by working on something new that will. Companies and individuals stretch their capacities, and turn them in new directions. Entirely new businesses, even entirely new industries can come out of such upheaval.

The advertising business will die when people stop buying things.


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