The Death of Advertising

  • 2017-03-30
  • Medium

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, at least consciously; blind to the brightly colored billboard on the highway, or the flashing neon lights outside of a roadside motel. Our conscious minds, however, were never the targets of traditional advertising. The most effective advertising campaigns of the last fifty 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!”, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance”, “Esurance — insurance, for the modern world”, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!”, to name a few. Also, I recalled those without external aid — such is the effectiveness of long-term, large-scale advertising campaigns.)

In the old world, there was no effective way to target individuals searching for niche products, so the companies that succeeded — the household names, so to speak — offered products that appealed to broad swaths of people, and advertised by reaching thousands, and in many cases, millions of people at once (see: Super Bowl and radio ads). The companies who ran successful advertising campaigns through these mediums, then, tended to be of a certain ilk, whether 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 massive investment into 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 a consumer in Detroit could obtain a Sake produced in Japan. 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.