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June 23, 2006

What's Next for Advertising, and What Should "The Media" Do About It?

According to Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0, advertising's link to the mass media could be showing signs of major strains, as grassroots marketing initiatives become more and more viable.

In other words, when advertisers begin marketing campaigns that are so creative that fans are willing to forward it to their family and friends for free, then the traditional media has been completely side-stepped. Ad firms still get their piece of the pie, for helping develop the creative ad that everyone is forwarding around, but the distribution system becomes voluntary on behalf of the people instead of through an ad-supported media model.

Karp predicts that this is the way of advertising in the future, ads that seep into personal relationships and begin getting forwarded on a regular basis for their creativity, their novelty, or their appeal to a niche audience. And where does that leave ad placements and traditional ad services? More importantly, what does this do to the traditional system of the media?

Pretty good question...Karp's suggestion is that now, before it's too late, media companies should get their creative services involved in helping craft compelling video ads. In addition to providing content for television, these companies could use their creative services to create skits, commercials, and entertainment of various sorts meant to market a particular brand. In that way, these companies wouldn't miss out by trying to hang on to taditional ad profits while the future of advertising is controlled by more forward-thinking companies.

What does Karp predict for media producrs who don't take on this new role as advertising creator? "Those businesses will likely survive, but most won't grow very much, some will shrink, and some media brands may not survive at all."

Does this mean that, in his opinion, all television programming would have to go the way of HBO?

The major flaw in Karp's argument, at least as I see it here, is that it completely sidesteps issues of alternatives to the traditional 30-second advertisements placed in commercial breaks on shows but still within the traditional system. For instance, natural product placement within the fictive world of a show is an aspect of television advertising that's always been present and is currently growing that would not overturn the traditional media system, other than diminishing the role of the "commercial break." He also doesn't have any discussion of products sponsoring particular shows, another longheld television advertising staple that has been making quite a comeback as people lose faith in the 30-second spot.

With Nielsen planning to release viewer numbers on commercials come this fall, what does this mean for Karp's argument? I think he has noticed two very important trends--the importance of viral marketing and the slow death of the 30-second spot--but his prediction is a little extreme. I think it may very well be possible that media companies could directly involved in this advisory function for creative services in viral marketing, but I don't think Karp gives enough credit to other movements in the traditional media that will transform from traditional commercial breaks into other sources for commercial revenue. That's not to say that Karp has not though of these issues but just that they aren't present in this piece.

Thanks to David Edery for passing this along.

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