Joe Marchese, author of Online Spin, recently wrote “Advertising is changing from the buying and selling of people’s attention with only implied consent, to a system requiring explicit consent of the people.”
I would argue that consent for advertising was never implied. Rather it was assumed that consumers of content understood the value of such content and would tolerate advertising in exchange for it remaining free. In today’s world there is a growing abundance of free, original content and consumers are less willing to participate in the exchange. A great example of this is YouTube, which has yet to figure out how to package pre-roll advertising around video content without causing a mass exodus of consumers. Another example is TiVo, which has television viewers blasting past the ads to get to the content.
Explicit consent is the future of all advertising. As blocking technology continues to evolve and free content continues to get better, only offers that are relevant, valuable, and not disruptive will be accepted.
Non-disruptive delivery is critical. No one I know (media professionals aside) wants to see an ad before or during their interaction with content, regardless of how relevant or valuable the ad is. Yet everyone I know wants great offers and helpful information on products and services that are relevant. Google has become one of the biggest companies in the world because it meets the three criteria detailed above: relevance, value, and appropriate delivery. But, even Google will fail if greed drives them to deliver advertising in mediums that do not meet all three criteria.
There are several mediums which I believe hold promise for appropriate advertising delivery: mobile, search, RSS, and email. All four allow for consumer consent, can be made highly relevant, and are not disruptive. Search companies have clearly capitalized on the opportunity. RSS has technical issues to work through around relevance, but I believe in the companies working on the problem. Mobile is the future, as more consumers manage their interaction with content on the go. Email is the dark horse in this race.
The email industry, Return Path included has largely failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Consumers plead for email through our Postmaster Network, yet many can not find the email when it arrives. Clutter, spam, phishing, and other noxious terms dominate the discussion boards and blog world. So here is my challenge to co-workers, partners, and competitors — fix these problems and the next Google will appear from within.