The future of online advertising?

The Future of AdvertisingWill McInnes and a commenter (Jonathan Hopkins) on his blog have got me thinking. Will’s post was about the future of advertising, and how advertising might best evolve in our digitised world. Jonathan suggests that businesses might do better to focus less on themselves and their products and instead try to help people.

Jonathan suggests that companies could use their advertising space to provide useful information that is still relevant to their products. So, for example, the Financial Times might offer statistics on shares. Tesco might provide recipes, or cleaning tips. Ikea might give free room-furnishing advice.

While it seems like a fine idea to be helpful, and build relationships with the people that may become customers, I’m not convinced that this kind of advertising will work. Obviously it will work to the extent that people will use the information provided and may recognise the organisation that provided it. But will they remember what the organisation does? Or what they’re selling?

Advertising doesn’t just exist to forcefully sell products – it often does a great job of informing people about new products and services. So advertising that forgets the product and focuses on providing useful information, may neglect to provide useful information about the product.

I suppose the obvious solution is a marketing strategy that cleverly combines useful content with product information and brand messages. And I think many brands already do this – perhaps the evolution will be into even less obvious advertising, with the useful content at the fore and the brand and products in the background (or perhaps blinking too fast to be visible to the naked eye, but having a rather powerful effect on your subconscious).

(Picture courtesy of Goribob)


  1. Hi Leif – good to see you getting involved. Agree completely that the brand needs to make sure that they are part of the overall equation, I just think that the weightings need to change and the emphasis needs to be on being useful and helping to make peoples lives better than shouting at people with brand messages. The best, most creative ads will be those that perfectly blend the two things. Right now the best example people keep holding up is Nike+.

    Comment by Jonathan Hopkins — June 18, 2008 @ 10:04 am

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