The points made here about which platforms are still important to certain demographics is absolutely worth taking and remembering since those aren’t always the same ones getting all the media buzz. But also worth noting is the point at the end about how digital isn’t about mass reach, it’s about finite and specific message targeting as marketers try and reach the *right* audience. That’s something that’s only going to get more and more thinly sliced as technology improves.
That also means, though, that advertising and marketing are becoming and will continue to become less and less of a cultural touchpoint.
Let me unpack that a bit. Rightly or wrongly, everyone in my generation and previous ones knows about The Marlboro Man. He was in commercials, on billboards, in magazine ads and everywhere else. If you say “Marlboro Man” to someone my age they’ll know just what you’re talking about. It’s a common cultural language.
In a world of customized messages, though, we lose that. The person next to me may be getting an ad for Starbucks sale on at-home coffee pods just like I am, but the ad is going to be different depending on what the ad server knows about each of us. Mine might have bolder colors and a more masculine message since I’m dead butch and only use my phone to do dude stuff, I swear. My neighbor, on the other hand, may receive a softer message since they spend their days researching how to help the pandas and what hours a local charity needs volunteers.
So the immediate value of the ad message may be greater since that customization may result in higher click-throughs or other actions. But the long-term value is decreased since nothing rises to the level of common cultural experience that transcends media and time.
It occurs to me that that’s why the Super Bowl, at least for the time being, will continue to be a big advertising event. It’s the one time when a mass audience is all seeing the same message at the same time, enabling it to be conversation fodder across demographic lines. Even that is threatened, though, as it’s likely online streaming of that and other sports events will only increase. That online viewing will be supported by ads that are based on our online behavior and other factors. There may still be the mass ads that everyone sees, but there will be more pressure for advertisers to really target the audience specifically, meaning I’m going to see something other people don’t.
There are certainly better things to talk about than ads and marketing. But it also means that word-of-mouth that results from those paid efforts is going to be impacted. If we’re not seeing the same thing, we’re not talking about the same thing. That common touchpoint is lost as we can’t have a single conversation based on sometimes drastically different experiences.