All advertising is wrong

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Well most is.  When you see a website full of banner ads what do you do? do you slowly study each one, trying to ascertain whether it’s selling something you might be interested in? or do you try best to ignore them?

When an ad appears ahead of a video you want to watch, do you sit there eagerly watching the ad engrossed to see what they are offering you? or do you turn the sound off, quickly see how long you have to not look at the screen until what you really want to see comes on?

No matter how hard websites try to plaster our line of sight with advertising or video content providers try to frustrate us into watching something, we know what they are up to and we will do our best to not comply. Traditional forms of digital advertising are dead and have been for a long while now. The concept of push and pull when it comes to online advertising has been mentioned before, but as online users we have transformed from a society that is accepting of content being pushed onto us, to a society where we know what we want from in-direct social methods, whether that be through friends on a social network or becoming interested in something which just looks fun.

I would argue that a high number of positive reviews about a product on Amazon is infinitely more effective in selling that product that any online advertising that products company might do. The reason being of course is because we believe that the reviews are an honest appraisal of the product, the reviewers don’t get anything by praising the product, so we think it must be good then.

So we know what doesn’t work. What does? what’s the way forward?

The new form of advertising should be about discovery and narrative, both of which stem from connections to people. Whether those people be experts in something which we are interested in, or whether they are just friends we trust. Because we live in an online world where everyone is trying to sell us something, trust is everything. And the brands that install the greatest trust in their users will be the winners. Trust to do the right thing, trust to give them the right/best advice, trust that it’s not “just” about the bottom line but equally about offering a value for money product or service. And trust comes from connections, multiple connections form a narrative, and help with discovery of new “trustworthy” content or people.

This is why all of the current social networks, and even the giant search engines are behind the curve when it comes to the future (I would argue the need for that future is already here) of advertising. Their whole structure is based around the push model of advertising. Twitter is perhaps moving closer to a more story based approach to advertising, but even using Twitter you still frequently have the need to unfollow people or to block Tweeters who are spamming the feed.

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