Despite the incredible advancements in technology happening around us, today's digital ecosystem is one in which we have too many advertisements coming at us each day. The underlying reason for that is the inefficiency that still exists in connecting buyers and sellers.
To put this in perspective, let’s look at how advertising has changed in the move from traditional to digital media. In digital, we started with primarily contextual targeting, which is a fancy way of saying that we inferred something about a consumer based on the type of content he or she was consuming or reading or what site they may be visiting. That was basically a simple extension of television, radio or print – a model in which advertisers didn't have many options other than to choose the program or magazine, and run an ad in it. Everyone got the same ad.
Digital, of course, gave us the ability to show different ads to different people within the same "context" -- the same show, same site, same program. And on the web in particular, where it was possible to set cookies on browsers, companies began trading information, and it got progressively more sophisticated, to the point where advertisers could buy audiences of people regardless of their context.
The big disruption of this progress is in mobile, where cookies have not been a successful currency of data, and the alternatives require very sophisticated platforms and strategies. So what we see is a lot of low cost ads in front of the wrong people. And on the web, the technology we have seems to be backfiring on consumers who are seeing more and more ads that are more and more invasive.
What we have is an inefficient market. The buyers can't reach their audiences, and the sellers can't get the prices they want. To offset the reduction in revenue, I'm seeing the publishers respond by showing more ads in more places, in many cases WAY too many ads on a page. The ads become increasingly annoying as they crawl, and beep, and pop up, and pretend to be content or menu items, and so on. This makes consumers increasingly agitated and frankly, less responsive to advertising.
So what we need to do, as an industry, is actually REDUCE the number of ads, RAISE the prices of ads, and be extra diligent about putting the right ads in front of the right people. We need to be in on it together -- the buyers & the sellers. We need to cooperate for the benefit of our consumers.
We also need to turn around the perception that somehow collecting information & managing it is an invasion of privacy. It doesn't need to be. That data can be used to improve the lives of people, bringing them information about products, services & ideas that will give them satisfaction. The digital revolution, especially as it extends to mobile devices that are aware of your state and presence at all times, should usher in an era that transcends advertising, or even product marketing, and allow us to inform and empower consumers to make good choices.