Advertising can trace its roots as far back as Ancient Greece and Rome. To draw attention to their businesses, merchants wrote on papyrus, a paper-like material, and nailed them to buildings to advertise their wares.
Since then, we have seen pamphlets (once the printing press was invented), print advertising, radio spots, TV commercials and today’s social media. It’s quite a span of evolution.
But advertisers are panicked as Disney, which owns ABC, struck a deal with Dish Network that allows the satellite provider to stream ABC shows with viewers able to skip the ads. Yep, cut out TV advertising all together. What does this mean for the future of advertising?
This comes as no surprise as television advertising as a whole has diminished in importance (although still important). The introduction of the VCR was the first step as you could fast forward through the ads. Then came the DVR and onto streaming video, both ad-based (Hulu Plus) and not (Netflix, Amazon Prime).
Dish forced the hands of the networks by introducing its AutoHop feature, which allowed viewers to “hop” over ads. What’s an advertiser to do?
Well, for one thing, TV advertising is in no way obsolete. “Regular” TV still counts for a significant portion of the watch-at-home experience. Live events, such as sports and award shows, still bring in the ratings and give advertisers the ability to reach a wide audience. (Although, they have to pay mightily for it.)
If push comes to shove, a balance may struck that’s close to the European TV model in which ads are only shown between shows instead of the invasive tactic US TV employs now. (For advertisers, the invasive approach is still best.)
Advertising has always evolved, as it’s doing now. I have reservations about social media as an important marketing tactic, although it needs to be part of your marketing plan. (Just don’t bet everything on it.)
There will be new ways to reach audiences even though USA Today columnist Michael Wolff asks, “Who beyond the comatose actually watches ads, anyway?”
The answer: Anybody who finds the message important. One reason audiences are so pass-happy when it comes to TV advertising is because so much of it is meaningless and unimportant. Most of it is just garbage. It’s either some worn-out, entertaining take or it has no connection to prospects because what’s being advertised is so banal (like good rates for banking).
Advertisers have put themselves in this position. Few practice the art of stealing share, which means having brands that are so meaningful to audiences they feel incomplete with them. Instead, the messages are just fluff, soft and noisy.
No wonder we want to fast forward past them. The world of advertising has always found new avenues to reach audiences and it’s doing that now. But all the supposed experts will keep focusing on process instead of purpose. Few know how to develop a message that keeps audiences from tuning out and this situation is the direct result.