We Are In a Post-Media Society
It is common conception that social technology (and the free exchange of digital information) have “changed” advertising, presenting “new challenges” for marketers and the enormous, esteemed agency world. This, I argue, is a vast mischaracterization. The advertising industry is not changing; the entire concept of consumer content interruption, upon which the advertising industry has been built, is becoming obsolete.
The concept of interruption was created in the media-channel era. A medium, like TV or Radio, has, by definition, a single point of access and a single means of consumption. (e.g., 88.6 FM is a medium. It’s access point is a radio receiver). Because of this, the order, rate and method of content delivery can be controlled, an “interruption space” can be created and brand messages can be effectively interjected. This interruption space is where the entire, trillion-dollar advertising industry was born and currently lives.
However, this is not how content consumption works anymore. In a sense, we are in a post-media society. Content is not delivered through channels with a single access point, it is accessed directly making it impossible to regulate. And yet, we hold on to the same antiquated concept of interruption. It is no coincidence and is extremely telling that advertisers call this new world “social media.” This phrase demonstrates the immense misunderstanding of the new content environment by anyone who uses it.
Facebook and Twitter are not media channels and thus, cannot support the concept of interruption. Moreover, those media channels we do have left will soon be gone. As Wired mentioned two years ago, we now consume the majority of internet data outside of the World Wide Web (which could have conceivably been called a medium). And as Business Insider illustrates, offline media have either totally collapsed or are about to. And this includes TV, which still comprises the lion’s share of ad spending. Cable cutting will continue to grow exponentially as alternate pay-for-content models continue to emerge. And none of these models will qualify as media.
We do not consume content through media anymore. And without media there is no interruption. Without interruption, there is no advertising.
Working for an advertising agency now is like working for a record company in 2001. We are due for a huge, painful and inevitable collapse. And here’s what it will look like on the other side:
Products and services will be differentiated by the quality of experience they provide. Thus R&D will replace corporate communications as the single greatest determinant of corporate success. Because of this, corporate communications will assume one of two new forms:
The first is corporate communications as a part of the product experience. This includes refining user experience, creating product features, designing product interaction/interface and customer service. Creative minds will be very much a part of this process but they will be intrinsically linked to product management. This leaves little room for a third party agency of any serious capacity.
The second form is corporate communications as content creation. Content that has entertainment value independent of it’s brand will be extremely valuable for certain businesses. Red Bull is a prime example of this (http://redbullrecords.com/). Content creation also leaves room for creative minds, however, they will be totally indistinguishable from actual content creators (filmmakers, screenwriters, musicians, artists etc.) and nothing like the copywriters and designers around today. Thus, content creation companies will look nothing like advertising agencies and more like studios or production houses.
In short, social products/services with exceptional product experiences will rise to the top, and advertising will have no role to play in it. Agencies have begun to assume some of the above roles, not realizing that they will bring about their own demise. Because of this, it’s actually a really eye-opening time to be employed in the agency world. But this will not last. The moment these alternate content delivery models reach critical mass, the concept of interruption will be gone and the $.5 trillion media industry will totally collapse. Though it’s hard to say when exactly this will happen, ad spending data (and the previous link) suggest that growth has already stalled and we are at the top of the bubble right now.
© 2013 Tyler Gaul all rights reserved.