Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The end of advertising?

Posted on | October 31, 2008 | No Comments

…Maybe as we’ve known it.
Jack Myers is a well-known advertising-industry analyst and blogger. His ad-industry forecast is out, and it’s gloomy for the coming couple of years: Spending in 2009 will be down 4 percent, while spending in overall marketing communications will drop 2.1 percent. No surprise there.
But there are a couple of things that really bear thinking about as we try to grok how the communications world is changing around us.
The first is U.S. consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the GDP. That spending was fueled by leverage, primarily on home equity loans in the past 15 years. So, clearly prolonged recession can create a vicious cycle that really hammers the GDP over time. That spending also spurred new ways of consuming information and advertising to consumers. The rush to Internet land promised access to a hip, rich new audience moving in pace with the technology times and a much cheaper and more targeted way of getting eyeballs. Fair enough.
But there’s a problem: Supply and demand. Wherever the audience was, advertisers were willing to pay a premium. Newspapers at the turn of the century? You bet. Television? A captive audience eating dinner in front of Ed Sullivan? Absolutely.
But what happens when mediums expand infinitely and the audience diffuses along with that? What happens when advertising has to be EVERYWHERE? Then supply far outstrips demand, and, as a shrink would say, you got issues.
Like a freakish organism in some science fiction movie, advertising threatens to engulf itself. Here’s where it is today (and please feel free to add anything I’ve missed)

  • The usual channels (print, TV, radio)
  • The Web
  • Billboards
  • Buses
  • Cabs (including video in the backseats of cabs)
  • Bathrooms (video/audio while your flush)
  • Clothing (not just logo t-shirts; everything from socks and shoes to shirts carries the logo on the outside today).
  • Sports jerseys
  • Eyeblack on football players
  • Gasoline pumps (video monitors selling local advertising)
  • Cell phones (text and audio)
  • Buildings, sports arenas, etc.

The good news is this growth really should engulf itself in the coming years. When you can advertise anywhere, supply and demand loses balance. The cost of advertising falls to near zero. So it’s really the end of advertising as we know it. Consolidation happens, and, more importantly, the most effective mechanisms for making impressions on consumers rise to the top.
It would be nice not to be marketed to all the time, everywhere, wouldn’t it?

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