Is advertising becoming less effective?
Brands and organizations have the power to reach their desired audiences in multiple ways. There is no "right" way, no proven method, when messaging and the mediums used for messaging are constantly evolving. Granted, we would agree that there are basic truths that transcend all media, but to hear "best practices in digital media" actually makes us cringe.
We communications professionals are living in interesting times. People are communicating faster. More information becomes available before we know what to do with it. Consumers these days have more information on the products and organizations they patron than any other group of consumers in history.
Yet, we all still advertise. Why?
Because people prefer hearing from professionals, experts, and peers (not exactly in that order).
Advertising performs the functions of making information clearer, and providing consumers options from which they can make decisions. It is true that the way advertising presents itself has changed; but the overall function remains somewhat unchanged.
At least, for now. Digiday ran an article that mentioned a paper that had a premise on the "decline of advertising." It stated, according to the article, that because advertising is getting more ineffective, publishers are getting more advertising, and it creates a vicious cycle. Then, on top of that, many publishers are trying to reach the young crowd, who in the opinion of publishers, are immune and desensitized to the ploys and acts of advertisers.
A bold statement, to be sure.
A few things. First, the paper is a "working paper," and the theory of "peak advertising" certainly needs work. Second, it quotes consumers saying that advertising doesn't affect them. Based on our research on consumer behavior, most consumers are undoubtedly unaware of how advertising truly affects them; especially online advertising. And also, we'd like to see more data of the "fragmented Internet" than the Internet as a whole. But all arguments on the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of online advertising will have holes in them.
The important thing is, the fact that people are already saying that the golden age of online advertising is nearly over is wild to think about. Indeed, to think that the first popup ad was less than 30 years ago, and now academics and professionals alike are worried about how online organizations will sustain themselves if there's an "ad-bubble" is fascinating.
What is the truth? Like the author of the Digiday article, we agree that it is somewhere in the middle of the golden age and meltdown mode.
One thing is for sure: advertising isn't going away. But it could — and probably will — adapt to the needs of the market it serves. No endgame...yet.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.