What happens to advertising in a world of ‘streams’?
… it’s great to look at the clean and stripped-down design of a site like Medium or an online discussion community like Branch or a lightweight blogging platform like Svbtle, but part of the reason they are so attractive is that they have no ads.
Irritating people into clicking isn’t working
The cruel reality is that traditional advertising, with its banners and popups and site takeovers and other eye-grabbing tricks, is fundamentally irritating — and it becomes even more so when it interrupts a conversation or a social activity. As even advertising giant Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP has pointed out in comments about Facebook, the more socially oriented a service is, the more difficult it is to make advertising work in the way it did with more traditional forms of content and older platforms. Then, the reader was held captive to a certain extent, but in a world of digital streams that’s no longer the case.
So what happens to advertising? At the moment, everyone seems to be searching for an answer to that question.
…the sites and services that seem most compatible with that approach are Pinterest and its ilk, where users spend their time collecting photos and links to things they like — which in many cases are probably also things they will want to buy. That kind of information could be hugely appealing to brands, and so could creating a Pinterest collection of their own. Medium, which is takinga similar kind of collection-based approach to content, might also be able to appeal to advertisers on that basis. But how would users respond to advertising or explicit marketing in that environment? That’s not clear yet.
This model, which is to make advertising as “native” as possible — so that it looks more like the environment it appears in, instead of something irritating that is pasted on top of it, or stands between you and the content you want — is the one that seems to have the most potential, but it’s also the onethat is the hardest to implement. Why? Because instead of just coming up with a standard banner or display ad, all of a sudden you have to create interesting and/or engaging content in the hope that someone will pin it or retweet it or share it in their stream.
That might seem easy if you make attractive shoes or potato chips that everyone likes, but it gets exponentially harder with other products and services. And even if you create a viral ad that gets shared millions of times, as Old Spice did with its infamous “I’m on a horse” campaign, there’s no guarantee that that is going to actually translate into sales. That’s why major brands of all kinds are pouring billions of dollars into developing their own content channels, whether it’s YouTube or a Tumblr or a blog inside Forbes magazine’s advertiser network (another form of native marketing).
The bottom line is that if advertising is just another form of content — and content is moving towards a world of mobile streams — then you have to figure out how content works now, instead of just slapping your banner ad on top of someone else’s.