My friend Rob Hyndman has a great post up about how the Web is playing havoc with the traditional structure of the advertising industry. But he’s not talking about things like how Google’s AdSense is revolutionizing the ad business, or how Craigslist.com is disemboweling the newspaper industry’s main profit engine, or any of that stuff. Rob’s point is a little deeper than that. He wonders if Web 2.0 doesn’t make traditional advertising a whole less effective, by allowing people to instantly fact-check and reality-check the ads they are subjected to. In that sense, Google itself provides the tools to make its own ads less relevant — an interesting snake-eating-its-own-tail conundrum.
“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been noticing lately that over and over again the advice and information provided on the blogs of real people who share my interests and experiences are providing much more compelling information than any advertising that reaches me. Putting aside for now the question of branding, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m finding that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m repeatedly turning to blogs to find authentic and trusted buying advice from people who share my interests.”
This “democratization”of advertising, as Rob calls it, threatens a lot of the advertising that companies have grown accustomed to using, from TV ads to billboards and magazine spreads, all the way down to packaging. Yes, those tools can still raise “brand awareness,” but their message can also be almost instantaneously fact-checked and tested against the opinions and analysis of literally hundreds of people with a simple Google search. Not long ago, you would have had to read Consumer Reports magazine to get that kind of sample. Obviously there’s a lot of noise too, and blogs can (and will) be used to help extend brands and advertising. But the Web has changed that relationship fundamentally.
Plenty of food for thought. I recommend you read the entire post.
I just came across a link from Rex Hammock’s blog to a piece written by Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the world’s largest independent public relations firm, in which he discusses what he calls the Me2 Revolution — very much on the same theme as Rob’s post. And an unidentified advertising guy who calls himself Brand Cowboy has some thoughts about the concept of brands in the new media world (thanks for the tip, Stuart)