How Advertising Lost Half Its Credibility

Photo cred: Scotty Perry

Advertising has gone through some huge changes over the last few years.  Today, we’re seeing major brands dropping their Superbowl ad spots, newspapers quickly declining in numbers and even online ad spending has dropped for the first time since 2002.  Do you think advertising is failing? Perhaps only part of it…

Advertising tends to follow a simple model: provide entertainment to catch people’s attention, then make the pitch.  It essentially aims to accomplish two things: Increase Brand Recognition and to Convey a Message. I’ll argue that the latter is no longer effective.

The advertising message is dying.

Today, if you put up a commercial of a guy getting rocked in the balls, people will watch, and probably be entertained, UNTIL you try to sell them the cup. That’s where they tune you out.

So, if people pay attention to the content and ignore the message, we can understand why advertising on the internet is failing. Online, the content isn’t in the ad, it’s on the page. Internet ads, usually just make a sale (there isn’t much room for entertainment), which is what we’ve become so good at ignoring.  Online, it’s very easy to take in content without paying any attention to the ads.

One area of advertising that continues to grow is in online video ads and that won’t change soon.  As more viewers move from the television to the internet, so will the advertising dollars.  Watching a show on hulu feels just like watching it on tv, just with less ads (for now). Similar to television though, the message will be lost.  It’s even easier, since you can click on something else for 30 seconds.

It comes down to credibility.

Brands shoot for two kinds of credibility with their advertising campaigns:

  • Credibility as a brand
  • Credibility in the message

Seeing a well produced ad (especially on television) lends credibility to the brand name.  It lets the consumer know that the brand is the real deal. So credibility as a brand is still gained through advertising.  Whatever they have to say about their product in that ad, however, has no credibility, and would be lucky to make it in one ear and out the other.  Credibility in the message…cut.

Brands, I don’t care what you say your pill does, or how much your competitor sucks.  Hearing about it from you, or the actors in your ads, means nothing to me.

So is advertising still worth it simply for the brand credibility? Would businesses be better off investing in other platforms to share their message?  How will advertising campaigns adapt to these changes in 2010?

Will Increased Government Regulation Ruin Blogging?

Photo cred: Tuffer
Photo cred: Tuffer

I recently read this article about the Vogue model Liskula Cohen model suing the anonymous blogger (and winning).  There have also been talks of the FTC implementing disclosure regulations to ensure that “sponsored” content is always disclosed.  Seems that blogging may be coming under the legal spotlight.

How will increased legal regulation affect the blogosphere?

Well…it could have a positive impact:

  1. More responsible blogging. With no one to answer to, bloggers have been able to write anything and everything, whether or not it hurts others.  With a legal regulation in place, bloggers will be forced to blog responsibly.
  2. More respect for bloggers. With more responsible bloggers comes more respect for the blogosphere.  Blogs are increasingly becoming a go-to resource for news and information.  Respect will only catalyze this trend.
  3. Less noise. More restrictions usually means less content.  Legal regulations would eliminate a lot useless or repetitive content.

It could also have a negative impact:

  1. Less freedom. The beauty of blogging is the freedom it allows.  All someone has to do is set up a blog, and speak their mind to the masses.  Regulation would put a boundary on this freedom.
  2. Fear of punishment. Like any other law, the vast majority of people won’t actually read it in detail, but just understand the concept.  This means that a lot of people might not understand clearly, what they can or cannot say.  If bloggers are afraid to write for fear of being sued or punished, they may just not write at all.
  3. Removing a source of income. Regardless of whether or not people like sponsored blog posts, it has proven to be an effective source of income for many bloggers.  Enforcing disclosure may hurt the sponsored blogging market.

There are also a number of issues with these kinds of regulations:

  1. Enforcement. Pretty much impossible, without the investment of a great deal of money (more than should be spent on this issue).  It would have to rely on people reporting violations, and I’m not even going to get into how messy that can get.
  2. Grey areas. If someone reposts sponsored content without disclosing, are they also liable?  What if they repost content ruled as libel, can they also be sued?  It will be really hard to justifiably determine a line within these kinds of grey areas.

To this point the blogosphere has been largely self-policed.  While this has allowed for a very free and open platform, there is no official and effective system in place to ensure that the content is abiding by moral and legal standards.

Will government intervention impact blogging negatively or positively?  Are there better alternatives?  Share your thoughts.