Paul Adams, Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook, wrote one of those traditional advertising is dead posts that I avoid or ridicule. But I didn’t avoid Adams’ take on things, and I will not ridicule his points, many of which I agree with. I will challenge some of his conclusions, however.
His main premise: “To be a successful advertiser on the web in the future, you will need to build content based on many, lightweight interactions over time.” In other words, the future of advertising is not in broadcast, the future is relationship marketing, which the social web facilitates. I agree, where I veer is how Adams sees the new replacing the old. I see them living and working together.
Last night on TheBeanCast, I said that influencer marketing makes me uncomfortable, and that I don’t see the need for a broker placed between the customer and the brand. Yes, that’s the old school ad guy talking, but when platforms like Facebook truly foster brand communities — as they sometimes do — it’s one-to-one marketing, but at scale. Sure, a friend can lead another friend to this community, and maybe the friend joins in because of this initial peer influence, but ultimately the new comer either digs what the brand has going on, or not. And that personal preference is formed via a variety of factors, including top-of-the-line advertising.
Adams is a smart guy, and I like his passion for what he’s doing, but there’s just a bit too much Facebook-flavored Koolaid in his analysis and projections.
The web is destroying disruption as an effective and efficient advertising mechanism. Disruption is a terrible user experience and is damaging to both the publisher and advertiser. In a world of too much information, the only way to be successful will be to fit in seamlessly and naturally into people’s lives. You can introduce new content and new ideas to people, but it will need to feel natural or it will be ignored at best, infuriating at worst. The best way to do this will be through people’s friends, because in a world of overwhelming information and choice, people will turn to their friends to help them decide. They will turn to their friends because that is what we have learned to do through thousands of years of evolution.
I like the idea that our daily web experience is changing our tolerance for disruption, even when we’ve moved from the second screen to the first. “It’s a screen, it should do what we tell it to do.” That’s the new reality, and a big change from “it’s a screen, I wonder what it can do?”
Where Adams loses me is his faith in friends as information sources and recommendation engines. He bases his thinking on human evolution, saying that we’re wired to slowly build trust over time, with people and with brands. Sure, that’s why marketing is a marathon not a sprint. But we’re not always turning to friends to solve our information issues, branded or otherwise. Sometimes, if the jeans fit you buy them. End of story.