Via the PoMo blog, I came across this interesting article on advertising. It's an interesting take down on the lies that the advertising community has been telling itself for years:
Did Nielsen ever offer more than a gross proxy for the real television audience? No, but that was okay, as long as that stand-in was big and growing (and the one with the most buying power). Were media planners ever blind to the implications of magazines inflating circulation numbers with cheap subscription drives? Even in the days of the two-martini lunch, everyone knew that the value of the impression had to decline. It's just that nobody much cared to do anything about it. Certainly, nobody from the agencies would; and even advertisers blithely ignored it because there was no alternative to TV other than print. Those four-color spreads were so beautiful.
I've often wondered about the actual value of print ads. Sure, you can target an audience by picking the right magazine (or program, or even website). But can you get them to pay attention to the ads? I know that I blip over the ads, and pretty much always have. The dirty secret about TiVo and ReplayTV is how little they've changed things. Sure, they allow us to flit right past commercials - but how many of us actually paid attention anyway? Pre-DVR, there was the fridge, the newspaper, the magazine, the person next to us on the couch. How many people actually watched the ads? Heck, how many were ever convinced by them?
Take cars - Do we actually buy them based on ads, or based on some level of individual research (even if it's only a brief look into Consumer Reports?) This actually points to a partial answer to the problem - content. You can get people to pay attention to marketing (advertising) if the content is useful and interesting. If all you have is glossy ads with pictures, I don't think you'll get very far. If, on the other hand, you have content that explains what your product or service actually does, and why it would be useful - then you've got something. Now, I'm not going to state that the creation of meaningful and rich content is simple - it's not. I do think that it's more valuable than the concept ad you pay mega-bucks to a high priced advertising firms for though.
An example in the software world - have you seen those absolutely stupid IBM Linux ads running on TV? Sure, they look good - but do they actually tell me anything? There's a confused looking kid sitting in a chair, with a bunch of adults periodically talking to him. Is there any point at which I'm told what problems are solved? Heck, is there any point at which I'm told what products or services are being talked about? Contrast that with the old Chaplin PC ads from the early 80's - they were cute, and interesting - and also showed us what kinds of problems a PC was likely to solve. What do these new Linux ads tell me? Absolutely nothing. The only winner is the advertising agency - and I'm sure that all the folks there behind the ad are patting themselves on the back over how terribly clever they are. Meanwhile, those of us actually watching the ad have no idea what it means, or what product/service we should inquire about. That's the kind of advertising that will be on the way out. Content is becoming king, and high concept art isn't content - at least not in any marketing sense