Over the course of human history, creative endeavors like music, art poetry and film have been allowed to flourish because of patronage. This means that market forces have allowed and encouraged these things to exist as mass enjoyments. Naturally, drawings that I did in kindergarten haven't been circulating the art community because they weren't seen as valuable by the culture at large … there are paintings that the market has deemed as more valuable than my drawing and therefore those have become famous works of art.
Then there is advertising. One of the very few forms of creation that has bucked the naturally occurring power of the marketplace. This was able to happen for so long because advertising had a patron with the money to counteract the will of the marketplace. Marketers. Together with their patrons, ad agencies have been forcing an awful lot of ads on people for the past century or so. Some have been good, most have been abysmal, but their aim wasn't to entertain. It was to sell product.
Then Tivo and DVR's happened, along with the ability to flip to one of hundreds of channels to find something more interesting than a commercial break. People gained some power back.
Marketers have responded by placing messages in new places in new ways. Ads have crept into every little dark corner of our daily lives. Ad budgets shifted to the web. Sponsored content is creeping (badly) into sports broadcasts and (lame) product placement litters television shows. Out of home marketing has become ever more important and omnipresent.
Now things like Adblocker Plus are
emerging. Cities are beginning to legislate an end to out of home
advertising. People are gaining more and more power to tune it all out.
So what happens now?
I think we've entered into an arms race of sorts. Similar to the way internet security companies are constantly repelling hackers and virus'. Except in this case its corporations that are trying to penetrate the defenses of the people. The ad industry has created this weird dynamic where people don't want to see ads, so we're addressing that issue by trying to "connect" and "build relationships" with people using new media. Essentially, people are saying "get away from me," and advertising is responding by appearing in more places. How is this good for either party? If a real person were to behave like this, wouldn't it be an arrestable offense like harassment or stalking?
I think we can all agree that this whole thing is terribly broken. But it seems like most of the industry is busy trying to treat the symptoms, not the actual problem: we're not considering the consumer in this transaction of ideas. We get to give them a message, but in most cases they receive nothing in return.
This is why I think companies like Naked and Zeus Jones are so smart. Apple gets it, Nike gets it. Create an experience for people that they actually want to participate in. This means not only being in new places, but it means doing things for people in those places. Creating content that people actually want to engage with.
I think the idea that we make money, not art, is no longer valid. That mindset is why people don't watch ads. And like it or not, we're playing in the cultural big leagues now. Which means that Howard Gossage's quote about people looking at what they want, and sometimes its an ad, is even more right on now than it ever was. The future doesn't rest solely in the hands of media planners. Creating smart, engaging content is way more important than it ever has been. After all, in a free market, how long can an industry exist that makes things people don't want?