How bad advertising is finally killing the ad industry as we know it, and what we can do about it.

The entire business model of the internet depends on advertising, yet the entire business model of the internet is killing advertising as we know it. That’s weird, isn’t it? All we keep hearing about is how clickbait is chasing eyeballs for advertising dollars, news sites are pushing out sensationalist and fake news for the same reason, social media sites are harvesting an obscene amount of our personal data to better target their advertising (and charge more for it), and old media is dying across the world because it can no longer attract advertising.

Is anyone else surprised at the extent to which liddle ol’ advertising is the engine that powers the life and death of so many companies? That the attraction of advertising dollars is the only reason for the existence of many of the sites that monopolise our lives? How did that happen? I get that radio and TV stations needed/need ads to pay for their existence, as did/do newspapers and magazines, but unless I missed something big, the vast majority of the world didn’t always move to the beat of advertising’s drum.

The odd thing is that none of this has funneled more money into the conventional advertising industry. On the contrary, agencies are dying on their arses as they try to convince companies that they need ‘proper’ ads instead of the computer generated poo that we get served up on the web each day. In addition many have been complicit in the dark confusion of online advertising because it’s the only way they can get a share of where the ad dollars are going. (The fact that 99% of all new ad money goes to GoogleBook must be utterly galling.)

So the advertising ‘experts’ have been overtaken by the advertising newbies in less than a decade, and all to the utter detriment of what the ad industry used to hold dear: creativity, intelligence, craft, memorability, disruption and originality (of course I’m not saying that all ads reflected those values but it tended to be the intent). Does that mean none of those things mattered? Clearly the public aren’t up in arms about the change; we seem only to be bothered about the weird messages that follow you around and base their content on your conversations, but the ads being boring and ugly appears to be fine.

This is because we’ve become used to ads being ignorable wallpaper, so when more wallpaper arrived no one really noticed the difference. ‘Bad’ advertising is now killing the entire industry in a way that none of us predicted. We produced many things of a standard that was apparently easy to match, large companies matched it cheaper, quicker and with more accurate aim, and we had no reply.

So here we are.

Now, are going to die or fight?

(I think I heard you all shout ‘fight!’ as you rose to your feet.)

Then what does the fight look like?

It looks like this:

It looks like brilliant, beautiful ads that make people think and laugh and gasp.

It looks like ideas and executions that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

And most of all it looks like messages that Google and Facebook can’t replicate with an algorithm.

Every time we compromise we drive another nail into our coffin.

Every time we settle we push more companies into the arms of GoogleBook.

Every time we make our jobs look like anyone can do them we devalue what we do.

I know it’s not easy, but it’s really all we’ve got left.

The clock is ticking and the brief on your desk is the next chance to slow it down.