People who build things online have little need for, nor love for advertising. Facebook’s Jeff Hammerbacher put it this way: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”
There are some very real, complicated obstacles in the industry that need to be tackled. This is interesting stuff. I’m not suggesting that our best engineers should stop building spaceships. What I am suggesting is that advertising has been, and will continue to be, a significant force in our culture. And now is the best time to be a part of its evolution on the web.
I agree that solving marketing problems is an interesting pursuit. I also believe it can lead to good answers for all parties. But do engineers really need to be convinced of this? Do you?
Right now, online advertising is limited by what it has been–display ads, search ads, etc. The concept of what online advertising is has to be blown up, in order to make room for what is next.
What is next? We all have our own ideas, but I continue to believe in (and see immense opportunity in) branded utility and branded entertainment. Would an engineer want to make something that becomes highly relevant to millions of users? Of course. Did an engineer make Nike+’s new FuelBand? Of course.
Robert Hof, writing in Forbes, suggests, like Garland, that ad-hating hackers rethink their bias.
If the techies would give Mad Men credit for a little intelligence of their own, they might actually find it stimulating to come up with technological means to amplify their insights into human behavior and help them create better advertising–or whatever new form advertising could take.
Build it and they will come? Perhaps.
Build it with exceptional craftsmanship (while focusing on solving problems for people), and they will come with open wallets, hearts and minds.