Tanya was busy doing a Web search for the word “frigate”, in connection with a section on frigate birds she’s writing for her book, when she said: “Look at this flashing advert! Haven’t advertisers learned yet that people hate them?”
“What’s your reaction to that kind of thing?” I asked.
“Oh, I would deliberately never buy anything from an advert that either flashes on my screen, or expands to cover the text I’m reading,” she replied. “I resent the way they distract you.”
A few minutes later, a former colleague sent me a link to an article about the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, in which Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft chief executive, claimed that the global advertising economy had been permanently “reset” at a lower level, warning that media companies should not plan for revenues to bounce back to pre-recession levels.
Ballmer argued that traditional broadcast and print media would have to plan business models around a smaller share of the advertising market, as revenues continue to move to digital outlets.
Two apparently unrelated pieces of data. But I believe they are connected.
Print advertising is definitely contracting, and online advertising is rapidly growing. But for “traditional” media companies, their online revenue is not growing fast enough to replace what they’re losing.
The most lucrative advertising for both newspapers and magazines, believe it or not, used to be “classified” advertising – “small ads” by people who wanted to sell or buy stuff, find a partner, rent an apartment and so on.
Trouble is that eBay and Craigslist have already cornered that market online. And they do a better job. For instance, a friend of my son’s who lives near Seattle just bought a speaker cabinet for a 1970s bass amplifier. He found it on Craigslist – in Portland. Portland’s close enough to Seattle to drive down – but you’d never have found that ad in a local Seattle newspaper.
The second most lucrative class of advertising in newspapers was “display advertising” – full- and half-page ads, for example. These were typically very professionally produced, and usually interesting to look at. In many glossy magazines, people read the ads just as much as the content – Vogue magazine would be a good example.
This is a whole class of advertising that hasn’t yet made it onto the Web – because it depends on properly paginated content (adaptive, of course – your page will almost certainly be different to my page…)
Web technology today doesn’t yet support ads you really want to view. So advertisers resort to animation to draw your eyes. In other words, we have to put up with the “dancing idiots”…
It’s not just the content pages which need to become adaptive, of course – the ads themselves have to adapt; bringing in or leaving out content depending on the size of the “page” and the space they have to fill.
Sound too complex? It’s already been done. Those who signed up for the Microsoft WPF-based version of the New York Times Reader (the first one, now supplanted by an Adobe AIR version), saw a set of adverts which did exactly that.
I believe the company which gets this technology onto the Web and uses it to create “ads you want to view” will become the “next Google”. Unless, of course, it is Google…