This morning I am sitting in Gotham Hall waiting for the first day of the Future of Online Advertising conference to begin. I admit I feel slightly like a fish out of water, given that I’m not really in the advertising business. I mean, sure I kinda do that for my day job (well, part of it), but look at this blog - no ads. I’m not just doing that because I think they’re annoying, or because they’re too hard to install (they’re definitely not), but it’s on principle, actually. I believe that if you’re reading this site, you deserve to see the content, and deserve to feel like I’m not trying to sell you something (except maybe Twitter). I believe in offering this content out of the goodness of my heart and I expect nothing in return (though if you ever feel like sending brownies, let me know, I’ll give you my address).
I think that the future of online advertising will see a tendency towards separation of ads from content - not the other way around. At least, this is what I’d like to see. I think advertisers might finally start understanding that they can’t force us to watch/read/click their ads - that we do not want to be interrupted, that we don’t want to be pitched to. We will go looking for ads when we want to, we will click sponsored links when they are exactly what we are trying to find, we will watch your videos if they are awesome. And most importantly, we will advertise for you if we like your brand enough. We will evangelize to our friends and family if we can trust you to treat them well. Focus on providing value, spend your money on your product, not on disgusting, annoying, sound-playing, Flash-y banner ads. Let us like you. No, let us love you.
That is what it’s all about, after all: love. In the future, everyone will be an advertiser for those products that enhance their lives the most. Traditional marketing tactics will be increasingly viewed with contempt, and companies attempting to hawk their wares using them will be excommunicated, ignored, ridiculed, and destroyed.
We’re seeing the seeds of this now. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are full of regular people promoting the stuff they think is cool. “Check out this video!” is all I need to hear from a friend, and I will check it out. But I could see dozens of banner ads and AdSense skyscrapers and sponsored links for the exact same video, and I would deliberately choose to ignore it.
When’s the last time you clicked a sponsored link? An animated Flash ad on a website? I’m interested to hear how you interact with ads on the Web, because I don’t, at all, personally. I’ve never clicked an ad on the web. No thanks, I know how to find what I’m looking for.
But perhaps I’m wrong about this, and you do like ads and think differently. I suspect you’ll tell me in the comments if I am, and if you do.