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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The death of the advertising industry

Advertising is a scam! When I think about the way that advertising and public relations works, in my mind's eye I see a bunch of penguins waddling around honking at each other, all of them so very serious and oh so sophisticated. Maybe it's like hypnosis?...It doesn't work at all on most people, but for those few upon whom it does, it really does? That's the only thing that makes any sense. This useless segment of our economy absorbs 140 billion a year in revenues.

I'll address the two standard boilerplate arguments. First, it promotes awareness of products and services, and second it increases sales of those products and services. Really if you think about it, these two reasons are the same reason—the only reason that advertising exists is because it increases sales of products and services, and the only measure of success in advertising is the measure by which sales increase following that advertising.

Does anyone ever listen to the radio anymore? Ever since I got my new Toyota Camry with a Bluetooth capable stereo system, I've been listening to Pandora through my car's speakers using my iPhone. I've completely stopped listening to the radio. It means I miss the traffic updates, but honestly, I usually missed those anyway because I was surfing through channel after channel trying to find something besides an endless stream of commercials. Pandora has a commercial or two after a set of four or five songs. The commercial lasts less than 30 seconds, then it's back to the music. Not only that but I get to listen to the entire song without a DJ talking through half of it.

Does anyone still watch regular network television anymore? I watch one of several movie channels, sometimes Netflix, sometimes Amazon, but mostly Comcast On-Demand programming. If there are any commercials they're brief and they never interrupt the actual program itself. The only things left to advertise with are billboards, The Yellow Pages, magazine lap-flaps, and of course a gazillion internet advertisements. Billboards are easily ignored. Who uses a phonebook anymore? Who buys magazines anymore? As for all the internet ads and spam in my inbox, that problem is being actively fought with both ad-blocking software as well as a variety of new legislation.

Who clicks on web ads? Who listens to a radio commercial and thinks to himself, I've got to have that! Who sees a Pizza-Hut commercial on television and then picks up the phone? It doesn't make any sense to me. As far as I can tell, the only way that advertising works at all is by promoting brand awareness. I'm more likely to eat at a familiar restaurant than I would at Jim-bob's Burger Shack. Otherwise advertising is growing more and more unlikely to reach the limited audience who are actually influenced by it.

Many people feel that advertising is a necessary evil. It's just one of those things we put with for the greater good or something. After all they wonder, how else would businesses promote their products? In the old days they had people shouting their wares into the street. "Peaches get your peaches here, juicy and sweet," etc. But today they have the mainstream media do it for them. Unfortunately for advertisers, mainstream media is becoming less relevant every day.

If you think advertising is still so necessary, why do you suppose that people still buy name brand cigarettes? When's the last time you saw a cigarette commercial? Yet still people buy certain kinds, pack after pack after pack. Still they choose to buy the brands of Marlboro and Newport the most. If advertisers suddenly stopped advertising soft-drink brands today, do you think people would stop buying Coca-Cola and Pepsi tomorrow?

I have the same opinion of advertisers that I have for people who pee in public pools. Advertising is all around us in our daily lives and if we're in a public pool so is that other product. Even though we just ignore both of them, nobody is too happy about either one. There are undoubtedly the few odd individuals who enjoy commercials ... or pee in the pool for that matter, but for the rest of us ... not so much. In spite of the—I'm sure—serious effort required to produce the aforementioned environmental additives, I bet most of us could go the rest or our lives without having either one of them in our faces.

Because of all those new technologies mentioned, traditional advertising will soon be suffering on its deathbed. Why watch commercials on television when you can TIVO them and skip right through? Why listen to commercials on the radio when you can tune them out with satellite radio or use any of the streaming music sites on the internet? Why bother buying a newspaper or a magazine when all that information in on the internet and your ad-blocker stops commercials on the other side of your firewall? Soon the only advertising that will be possible will be the product placement kind. For example, I could probably provide brand awareness of fourteen different brands in a typical blog post and you'd probably never even notice.

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