Your advertising makes me want to kill myself: the cost of free media

Our entire planet now runs on an ad-supported model and it’s making me want to kill myself. It’s impossible to exist and not be subjected to advertising from companies trying to get you to buy the stuff they’re selling. There is no escape. Ever. Except death, and I’ll bet they’ll soon have ads inside coffins on the off-chance you wake up.

Like drug addicts, humans have become addicted to free media — from television and radio, to online news and social media platforms. While we rarely pay a cash price for the content, we always pay with attention. It’s called interruption-based advertising, winning attention with one thing and interrupting it with another.

The companies providing the free media are selling our eyes and ears to companies wanting to sell us stuff. We’re ok with that for two reasons: firstly, everyone loves free stuff, and secondly, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore the adverts. Seems ideal.

Not so fast with the happiness: ignoring them is bad because you create a vicious cycle. The better you get at ignoring the ads the harder the advertisers push to get your attention.

Interruption-based advertising is evolving into invasion-based advertising. Our move to digital content consumption, be it digital text, television or radio, has brought with it a wealth of tools that enable us to avoid the advertising. DVR decoders, ad-blockers and paid-streaming are all there to help us avoid consuming adverts.

You may think that our ability to block adverts is a good thing, but it isn’t. The content is only available because of the adverts and if you aren’t consuming them then you aren’t ‘paying’. If you’re not paying there’s a good chance the content will no longer be served. You lose.

Do you have a moral obligation to consume adverts to keep the content streams flowing? Hell no. The problem lies with the producers of content and the advertisers. They have to find new revenue models or, more likely, better ways for advertisers to reach the audience in a non-interruptive and non-invasive way.

This is no easy thing though because it requires advertisers to care about the consumers of the content (which they don’t do now), it requires agencies to think beyond 30-second slots and banner ads (which they don’t do now), and it requires publishers to partner with advertisers to create content that serves as an advert delivery vehicle. Adverts that have so much value that the target audience chooses to consume them (which they don’t do now).

It is no longer acceptable to force your advertising on people. It’s not OK for your advert to only be relevant to one percent of the people who are forced to consume it. It no longer matters what you want to say, it only matters what the consumer wants to hear. And if they don’t want to hear from you, respect them enough to honour that.

When you’re able to create a piece of content that your target market chooses to consume, even pays to consume, you will have succeeded with your advertising. Simple really.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.