The headline of the London Evening Standard on September 1, 1939 was:
AND BOMB POLAND
As if it were a surprise. Years of denial, appeasement and naïve diplomacy had yielded exactly the aggression that had been inevitable and obvious since at least 1933. The Times of London could have, but alas did not, offer the competing headline:
The British mobilization was, to say the least, tardy. Perhaps y’all recognize the feeling. What brings this catastrophe to mind is not just the approaching anniversary of World War II's outbreak, but some headlines in this publication and elsewhere over the past couple of days. To wit:
The Adobe/PageFair study quoted in the story predicts the financial toll will exceed $41 billion next year. Well, blow me down. Who could’ve seen that coming? Hahahahaha.
Of course, consumers are using ad blockers. And why? For the same reason dogs lick their privates: because they can. For all those wonderful analog centuries when readers couldn't eradicate print ads or fast-forward through Mr. Whipple, the advertising industry somehow let itself believe that it was cherished. Advertisers were captors who imagined themselves as hosts.
Sure, a few outliers like “Where’s the Beef?” and the fast-talking FedEx man amused their way into the pop culture. Yes, many other ads insinuated themselves in the mass consciousness through mere endless repetition (“Pepsi-Cola hits the spot! Twelve full ounces -- that’s a lot!”). And, yeah, Tony the (Sugar Pimp) Tiger made people applaud in a couple of Advertising Week parades.
But there is a difference between familiarity and affection. There is a difference between nostalgia and affection. There is a vast difference between resignation and affection. Face it: they never loved you. They. Never. Loved. You.
The very moment TiVo permitted commercial zapping, and spam filters emerged, and AdBlock Plus was released, they ran from you as fast as their software could carry them. They treated you like roaches and mice. They brought in exterminators.
I take no joy in reporting that, because exterminating advertising is something like exterminating bats and spiders. They trigger visceral disgust, but they perform a very valuable function in the ecosystem. We need a functioning advertising economy to underwrite the news and entertainment content that amuses the world, and not incidentally, undergirds our democracy. And no alternative revenue source -- not subscriptions, not micropayments, not affiliate links, not native, not data, not e-commerce -- has emerged, alone or altogether, to replace it.
That is the nub of the problem for marketing -- but mainly for the media economy. Yet in 2015 we continue to see industry-wide freakouts about ad-avoidance and fraud and CPM shrinkage and fragmentation and all of the other consequences of digital revolution that have been inevitable and obvious for more than a decade. It’s as if the whole lot of you fell in the thrall of Neville Chamberlain -- not because he made any sense, but because you wanted to believe you would have peace in your time. This despite the likes of Winston Churchill, who began warning Europe of its tragic destiny in 1930. Yes, he outlined the chaos scenario three years before Hitler even took power.
Not because he was clairvoyant. But because he was willing to open his eyes.
And you…you with your data and your technology and your Series C Rounds and your relentless optimism….well, you have mobilized too late.