When I was young, driving down a lonesome country road, seeing a billboard was a nice diversion from the black and white boredom of daily life. Being interrupted from the monotony was a welcome surprise in a world where there was lots of time to kill.
Today, we all drive in Las Vegas.
It’s 24-hour non-stop action, and our time and experiences are something we increasingly cherish. There’s so little time, so much to choose from, and we want to do the choosing.
An essential element of the web is that it gives us more control. In the old world, content was like a long, straight road. But with the invention of the link, we get vastly more choices about where and when we can turn and head in another direction. The search engine is like a car that we can steer and accelerate in the direction we want to go. Our smartphones are designed to react instantly to a tap or a swipe. Digital gives us so much more and puts us in control and we love it. Digital listens to us as our personal assistants waits patiently for our command.
In this new, invigorating and exhausting world sits a grumpy old uncle, whining and moaning in the corner about the good old days, and complaining about how nobody listens to him anymore.
Uncle Advertising still has a lot of wealth and power, but to the younger generations and the better educated, he is an annoying bore, constantly interrupting with irrelevant and useless pieces of ridiculousness. “Society doesn’t need advertising like it used to,” a Forrester report published in May 2017 states. “People have less time for interruption-driven media.”
The report predicts that over the next 12 months, some $2.9 billion will be removed from digital banner / display advertising budgets.
How display / banner advertising ever achieved such massive budgets is a testament to human stupidity and the inability to stop doing what you got trained in grad school to do. You’re as likely to get hit by lightning or climb Mount Everest with one hand tied behind your back, as click on a banner ad. (According to Adage, the average click through rates are 0.35 percent, and most of those who do click are bored people with no intention to purchase, or else they’re fraud bots.)
What’s the future? The future is where the brands have to start driving down the road, their eyes and ears watching and listening attentively for the advertising that the consumers are making. Yes, it’s been turned on its head. In digital, the consumer is now the advertiser. A search on Google, or an instruction to Amazon’s Alexa, can be your ad for something you are interested in.
The future is for those who listen — truly listen — to what customers are saying, and then respond appropriately and quickly. If you work for a large organization, then how difficult is it to actually listen and respond to customers? I know. I know. Incredibly difficult. But it is the digital listeners and responders who will master the information superhighway.