In the 1960’s advertising transformed into the art of persuasion. This is beautifully portrayed in ‘Mad Men’, and was a result of the changing era of social awareness. Popular attitudes began to accept gender, racial and social equality. And for the first time an intrinsic mistrust of government began to seep into public consciousness.

Today, that mistrust is firmly rooted in advertising. We don’t believe advertising claims – and more importantly, we now both ignore them, and consciously go out of our way to avoid advertising. Effectiveness is still measured in impressions – because it has always been difficult to measure impact. Every study I’ve read on impact has indicated that it is plumetting (and I fully expect people rooted in the ad/print/media industry to disgree with me in the same way that those with vested interests in disaster movies always deny the inevitable earthquake/shark or iceberg).

Direct mail is all but useless. We don’t get mail that we look forward to any more – only junk and bills (although parcels have increased due to web commerce). I don’t even get much junk mail because I have a sign “No Unaddressed Mail” on my mailbox. And I’m on the no-call list for telephone solicitation (though that’s not effective for off-shore calling). As I get my news from the paper or web and not TV, I’ve recently killed my cable TV feed. Everything I want to watch I download. iTunes and Netflix don’t forcefeed you many ads with your content. Most people skip ads on their PVR while time-shifting. Streaming radio comes ad-free for the cost of a monthly subscription. And magazine and newspaper circulation is way, way down. We are all actively avoiding advertising.

So online has been the major surge in recent years. There are two major ways of advertising openly online – with search matches, and banners. Search matches are great, and targeted – as far as they go. If, for example you install solar panels and someone searches “solar installation Toronto”, you will probably show up. But that misses all the people that don’t already have a defined need. It doesn’t help build demand the way that advertising of old did.

So what about banner ads? They should do that, right? Well, it turns out that the average person between 16 and 36 sees 1500-1700 banners per week. And on average they click on none. None. The percentage is so low, that you are more likely to be in a plane crash than have someone click on your banner ad. So for driving traffic they are useless, but may have some murky value for creating awareness – but not usually in any positive light.

All of which means that the value of alternate means of messaging has overtaken ads.

More on the methods, and the step away from globalization this implies, in my next blog.

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