Dave, Dave, Dave, you got me all wrong with your rebuttal column "Advertising Is Content." I give a lot of terrible advice to the industry to be sure :), but my column last week, "Advertising is NOT Content," was not advice to the industry, it is the state of the industry. I am not suggesting that publishers develop methods for people to pay to avoid advertising; I am saying that publishers already are developing methods for consumers to pay to avoid ads.Have you signed up for Pandora's premium service? Do you rent a DVR from your cable company? Then you are paying a fee to skip ads. And there are a lot more pay models are coming. What I am saying is that if advertising doesn't find its footing, this trend is going to accelerate.
And why are publishers developing ways for consumers to pay to skip ads? Because the economics make more sense for publishers and for consumers right now in digital media. Unless there is something wrong with my math last week, $1.20 per hour (what advertisers are valuing people's attention at when they pay a $10 CPM for a 30-second spot) is well below minimum wage. And I for one believe that those hard-working people in the rust belt, and everywhere else in the world, value their free time and their time with their family, at a lot more than $1.20 per hour. (Side note: I do feel like I am campaigning for office now that we've brought the rust belt into things.)
And if Super Bowl Ads are such great content, why are they used to fill the spaces in the largest television sporting event in the largest market in the world? If Super Bowl ads are such great content , let's just every year have a special time where we unveil the best ads of the year and let people tune in. Then advertisers wouldn't have to pay for those really expensive Super Bowl spots. Even better, let's just put the ads on the Internet, and we'll let people share them with each other on their own.
We all know that will never happen. Those really great commercials -- and they are really great -- are very, very expensive to produce, and if they are not seen by a massive audience, then the marketers and agencies would never be able to justify the cost of production. And in the end, why would a consumer products company want to go into the entertainment business? It's not their business, and adds a whole new level of risk.
Sunday circulars are a whole different issue, because they provide value well outside of the realm of content -- monetary value in the form of cost savings. But again, I would argue that if consumers would seek those out because of their value, why stuff them into everyone's Sunday paper to get them in your home even if you don't want them? It kills an unfathomable number of trees, has a very high cost of production and makes a ton of waste.
Sure, every advertisement is technically a form of "content," but advertising is not content that people will ever value enough to seek out at enough scale to justify the production of great advertising as content. In the end, advertising will never be true content because the goal of great content creators is to create a product that people value, while the goal of great advertising creators will always be to sell products and build brands. With advertising, he content value is a means to an end only. Not saying that great advertisers couldn't be great content creators, but at what point does the goal of creating funny commercials impact the ability to sell the product or brand? This is another major issue that we haven't even touched on yet.
And here is the last point I want to make: I think that advertising has a very bright future ahead of it, although there are going to be some bumps. Advertisers shouldn't stop dreaming of producing better, more relevant advertisements, but advertising will really hit its stride in the new attention economy when it realizes its role in the value exchange between people, publishers and brands. Brands are not audience creators, but instead audience benefactors. Nike makes great shoes, and it wants people to know that. Let's put it this way: If I am placing bets on which companies will succeed in the new attention economy, I will put my money on those marketers that focus on creating great products, who work with top agencies to build effective product/brand messaging about the marketers' great products, and work with the best content publishers to engage the publisher's audience with the product/brand messaging. Sound familiar?