The Death of Advertising
The presence of advertising in our daily lives is akin to that of water in the life of a fish. It’s everywhere, and yet often, we remain oblivious to it — blind to the brightly colored billboard on the highway, or the flashing neon lights outside a roadside motel. Our conscious minds, however, were never the targets of traditional advertising. The most effective advertising campaigns of the last 50 years were the ones we eventually forgot were there — the McDonald’s television ads delivered to us as children, the Coca-Cola slide in left field at AT&T park in San Francisco, the slogans that somehow made insurance more than a hedge against disaster. (“You’re in good hands”, “Nationwide is on your side!”, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!”)
In the old world, before Facebook and Google, there was no effective way to target individuals searching for niche products, so the companies that succeeded offered products that appealed to broad swaths of people, and advertised by reaching thousands, and in many cases, millions of people at once. The companies that ran successful advertising campaigns through these mediums tended to be of a certain ilk: restaurant chains, car brands, department stores, insurance agencies, or brands under the umbrella of a larger consumer goods company.
Enter the modern era, and the internet has flipped the traditional retail model — one characterized by retail locations and brand advertising — on its head. Distance between buyer and seller no longer constrains sales — a consumer in Japan could just as easily obtain a watch manufactured in Detroit as could a consumer in Ann Arbor. The internet has given buyers and sellers unprecedented access to one another; it has never been easier for a buyer to find a seller who has what they need, just as it has never been easier for a seller to find a user who needs what they have.
In this new world, CPG companies and advertising agencies are experiencing utter paralysis. Advertising is not “dying,” per se, but what is dying are the brands that succeeded in a world without the unparalleled access that Facebook and…