The King of Advertising

Content is king, but not for long.

Like most stories of overthrown monarchies, this too will be an inside job. This tale includes a publishing army, well-dressed evil empires, and treason committed by the King's own flesh and blood.

King Content's soldiers had odd yet powerful names like ESPN and Fox, GQ and OK, NYT and WSJ, CBS and NBC, KFOG and KROCK. These acronymic warriors were meant to serve and honor the throne by publishing an engaging product designed to please the people the King was meant to serve.

In return, the people accepted that access to their donated attention would be sold to support the commercial interests of well-dressed empires with graceful and heroic names like Nike, Mercedes, Gillette, Heineken, and Gatorade. The people also understood that like taxes, the revenue the King's men earned from selling this access would be reinvested into the product and thus enhancing the experience they chose to engage. This reciprocal relationship between the King and the people first shaped the landscape of the land of advertising back in the mid-nineteenth century.



To ensure the needs of the people came before the needs of the well-dressed empires, King Content passed laws (well more like regulations) that helped form a line between the church and the state. In turn, the well-dressed empires employed agents to help further their agenda. These agents ingeniously induced inbred fighting amongst the King's army by leveraging their client's gold bars. As a result, the boundaries King Content had originally drawn to protect the interests of the people kept moving. With each shift, the well-dressed empires inched closer to the throne that ruled over the people they coveted as customers.

At the turn of the century, the King's young Prince, who went by the unique acronym of "WWW" followed by a breast-plated dot and the word "com" (which was Latin for "come on in"), announced himself and the future. The people and the empires that coveted them flocked around in awe of the young prince's claims. "Opportunity" he shared emphatically for those who wish to join his publishing army and "measured interactivity" for all empires that paid to access this newly collected attention.

As if a cannon were used to start a race, young warriors rushed to support the prominent young prince with the unique acronym and vision of the future. Nicknames like Yahoo! and Excite, The Onion and Rotten Tomatoes, Fogdog and Happy Puppy were all emblematic of the feelings the Prince had injected into his army and the people they were meant to serve. Almost immediately, casually dressed empires and their agents lined up to strike deals to access the attention the Prince and his army drew from the people. And as these new days wore on, King Content sat idly on his throne, proud and intrigued by what his young Prince had accomplished. At night however, his majesty slept with one eye open.

The agreements the Prince's young army accepted made the King restless. They were unlike any the King had seen before. Filled with new terms and newer expectations, the price for access to the people's attention was relatively dependent on what the people chose to do when exposed to an empire's message. The King worried this new incentive would influence how the Prince and his army protected an old one. It was the King himself who designed the structure in which all prior agreements were made. He informed his army of acronyms the more attention they collected, and the longer they held this attention, the higher the reward they would earn. This incentive nourished the people by feeding the product. These new agreements however, rearranged the incentive structure so the more people were fed to the empires, the more the Prince's army would eat like Kings.

One evening after the King dozed off to sleep, a vision came to him in the form of the God named Pandora who was blessed with beauty, talent, and a box that should have never been opened. The next day, the King decided it was time to talk with the Prince. The two met in a public setting called Galaxy Dinero. After drinking some herbal teas, the King spoke first.

"Incentives are more powerful than any army. They can drown a mountain of good intentions in an ocean of deception. We have always used an incentive to ensure that when my army of acronyms does what is best for them, they meet the needs of the people. In turn, the people have rewarded us with their trust and loyalty. Without it, we have nothing."

"But father" the young Prince interrupted, "we are doing what's best for the people. We have an idea of what they want based on the information they share with us and by sharing this with the empires, we can determine the most appropriate goods and services to market to them." The Prince continued, "And by doing so, my army puts themselves in a better earning position, so it's a win-win."

The King raised his eyebrows while lowering his head, "My son" he said solemnly, "if posed with the choice to do what is best for the people, versus what is best for the well-dressed empires, your army will do what is best for themselves. And by doing so, the needs of the people are in second place for the first time in our history."

The King slowly got up from the table knowing that when the Prince and his army crossed over that bridge enough times, the people would migrate to private pastures that would not require their donated attention be sold to exist. He was equally sure the empires and their agents would find a way to trespass and that he would no longer be their King.

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