When TV was just starting out before any kind of formatics came into the picture, we had advertising which was integrated into the actual shows. Uncle Miltie might deftly shift from a performance or bit into a commercial for sponsor Texaco. As I recall, back then the line between programming and commercials was not as stark as it is today.
As TV evolved, it went the way of radio and print where the content was segregated from the advertising rather starkly for the most part. Oh sure, you still had (and have) some live sponsor tags in radio, but mostly it’s all prerecorded and slickly produced.
Radio and later TV advertising began to evolve as marketing execs started to formalize the presentation of commercials. The division between the content and the advertising which paid for that content widened. It’s ironic that commercials are unpopular among so many when they have funded and continue to fund the production of the content we enjoy. That’s simply a reality and by no means a matter of opinion.
By the time the web came into being, there were established standards of how we thought advertising should be done. Those standards were not developed with the interest of the consumer in mind. Once the web could generate ad revenue, we found ourselves basically copying the same format for ads used in print. Maybe we got lazy and unoriginal or perhaps it actually did make sense to use this approach. I personally think we were in untried territory and did what humans tend to do in that situation, fall back on comfortable frames of reference and go with the status quo. It’s taken some time for the realization to dawn that the web is not simply backlit print.
Arnie Gullov-Singh in a post for Ad Age Digital, makes a great point when he wonders if social media is just too engaging for its own good. People have developed a blind spot for ads online as they have for other advertising such as TV, radio and print. The only thing most of us look forward to during a commercial break is the opportunity to stuff a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Of course, traditional broadcast media hasn’t helped itself much by playing up the bracketing of commercial content as a “break” in the programming. I should also point out that this is not a new issue for social media. People have been going “sidebar blind” on the web for some time now. Considering this, I’ve always preached that branding is more important than CTRs.
I don’t know if it was any more effective for Milton Berle to follow a skit by telling you to always ‘trust your car to the man who wears a star’ than a slick over produced spot is, but I think it’s fair to point out that we haven’t been very original in the new frontier of online advertising.
Gullov-Singh lauds the power and effectiveness of Twitter in-stream promoted tweets and claims the CTRs are off the charts when this is used correctly. The ad isn’t segregated to a side bar or banner or caged in big black outlined box. Of course, if your marketing message sucks, a promoted tweet probably isn’t any more effective than a tacky banner ad inviting people to “shoot five ducks and win an iPhone”.
Considering what he’s saying about online advertising and Twitter promoted tweets, doesn’t this make you feel a bit of nostalgia? I mean these ads are a bit like the old days where the commercial was part of the program banter and the transition from content to sponsorship was a bit more subtle.
Do we need to get back to a folksier and less rigidly formatted presentation of advertising? Should bloggers and tweeters be mentioning a sponsor almost conversationally and endorsing products directly? Certainly this kind of approach lends itself well to something which social media really turbo charges: word-of-mouth.
Is it possible to take this approach without some blurring the lines so much that fraud becomes an issue? It would certainly separate the wheat from the chaff as those social media people with integrity would be apparent by how honestly they presented sponsorships on their sites or in tweets. I think it’s time we put as much consideration into how we are delivering the message as we do about the message itself.
That’s all I have to say on this subject. Right now I’m heading out to Sam’s Fish and Chips at the corner of Main and Third for the best damn lunch special in town. That’s Sam’s Fish and Chips, corner of Main and Third…