Does infinite choice mean ultimate confusion?

I logged into YouTube the other day, and it helpfully offered me content I might like. In this instance it was a fine collection from Lady Gaga and the Wiggles. (My excuse is a two-year-old, but I digress.) The thing is, with a billion different YouTube options, my easy choices were variations on things that I’d already seen.

When do I get new stuff?

More importantly, what does that mean for advertisers? This is something that’s long been debated by pointy-headed people much smarter than me, but it’s always worth discussing further.

With a forest so massively jam-packed with trees, who can find the best way to show us where the wood is?

We all get that. It’s why SEM is one of the fastest growing parts of our business. And it’s also why Prime send me texts to go beyond “my usual” so they can onsell my eyeballs to someone else. But is it all a little clumsy? I think so.

Since Mad Men days and before, advertisers have done a great job of interrupting content with commercial messages. In the last decade we started interrupting people’s lives with commercial messages. And it all kinda works, and we can usually prove it. But now, more than ever, it’s time to move past interruptions and start creating content.

Moving Media Malaise into Media Arts.

The best ads in the world last year weren’t ads at all. We were all struck by the genius of building a treehouse instead of making ads. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the best ad of the year was the best job in the world – nothing ad-like about it.

At TBWA\ they call this Media Arts. I’m sure others have similar monikers. But the big problem is that agencies are paid to do work clients ask for. And clients get budgets based on last year’s work. So the true genius of work like a Pub on a boat or a Restaurant in a tree is the fact that someone could sell it.

We all need to sell a whole lot more. I don’t watch telly for the ads, I watch it for the content; mates don’t email ads, they send me content. And most important of all, I’ve spent my whole life learning how to filter through ads so I can get on and enjoy the content.

We can’t be the industry that makes ads any more. We have to be the ones who make content. Interestingly, Marshall McLuhan first talked about this idea in 1964. Understand Media: The extensions of Man was a seminal work on communication theory. His main point, among the long complicated chapters I was forced to plow through at Uni, was “The Medium is the Message”.

In other words, it’s not about weaving our message into someone else’s media it’s about owning that fact that our message is the medium. Or, to wildly mis-quote McLuhan with no real apology: the communication is the content.

He wrote that book 46 years ago and most of us are still playing catch up.

That’s what I reckon. What do you think?

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