Every time there has been a media “revolution,” it’s been accompanied by a background chorus crooning “this will change advertising forever.” The printing press allowed for ad placement. Radio was “mass communicatin’” (to borrow a line from O Brother Where Art Thou). Television brought video to the masses. Then, later, DVRs allowed the masses to control how they watch it. And the Internet, well, that was supposed to totally change the advertising landscape.
Truth is, none of these channels did much of anything to fundamentally shift the advertising paradigm. Each either allowed advertisers to 1) communicate with more people at once, or 2) better target their advertising to a more applicable group of people. But, at the core, the dynamic remained the same: a company/organization was trying to sell something to the people. “They” were trying to convince “you” to buy something “they” were offering.
As an embryonic advertising platform, interactive social media may have the potential to actually change everything. Social media isn’t corporate-authored messaging trying to get people to buy. It’s a mass peer-to-peer network where consumers can recommend purchases to each other. Brands aren’t leading the messaging. Rather they are trying to encourage participation in the channel. Brands aren’t telling consumers what they want them to believe, they are encouraging people to insert their brand messaging into the medium via dialogue.
The call to action is quickly moving from “buy now” to “like us” and “tell your friends.” Wow.
Long ago, the only advertising was through word-of-mouth. Not since our ancestors first hung out “ye olde tavern” signs, have brands been focusing so intently on returning to this medium. Used to be “word-of-mouth” campaign was code for “we don’t have any money.” That’s not the case anymore. Media tracking shows that advertisers are moving an average of 20% of their budgets into social media. The big players are engaging this word-of-mouth space.
Of course, “word of mouth” now is spoken by a keypad and through a URL. But it is still interesting that if, indeed, the latest technology is fundamentally changing the advertising paradigm, it’s doing so in a way that essentially capitalizes on word of mouth over mass communication.
This may change everything…back to the way it was.