What is marketing anymore?

None of what I am about to write here will probably shock anyone under 40, but we’re in a very unique time right now. I received the new issue of Men’s Health magazine over the weekend and I settled in today to browse through it. I swiftly found myself incredulous that companies, large companies mind you, with supposedly smart marketing teams, are still spending insane amounts of money to advertise in magazines. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been ignoring magazine advertisements, oh, since forever.

What’s worse is when a company pays (wastes) even more money buying specialized advertising in national magazines. You know, the stiffer cardboard ads with pop ups or some kind of little trinket glues to the page or some shit? These are the ads whose only effectiveness is to royally screw up your ability to flip pages. Those type ads simply make the magazine harder to read, for god’s sake, so much so that I find myself resenting the company that took the ad out. Not a good brand experience, really, is it? Hell, I learned from my dad as far back as the mid-1980s. When we received TV Guide in the mail, the first thing he did was simply go through it and remove ALL of the stiff cardboard ads or anything else that was inserted into the magazine to faciliate a smooth flipping-pages experience. Worked like a charm. I do it today with every magazine I read. Those ads you paid double for, Madison Avenue? They go directly into my trash.

It’s actually hard for me to believe that these cats still think that the days of throwing ads into national magazines is an effective vehicle at all. Think about it for a second: what’s the last thing you bought because of a magazine ad? Exactly! What drives you to make impulse purchases? Normally, the answer would be television, right? It’s probably still somewhat effective, but guess what? We’re merely years away from total market saturation of a little something called the DVR (or Tivo), which allows viewers to skip right over commercials. Most of us young-uns already do it, in fact, Stephanie must roll her eyes at me because when I’m fast-forwarding through ads, I go back-and-forth and back-and-forth and back-and-forth until the exact moment the show starts up again so I don’t have to watch a single solitary second of advertising. That’s right, I would rather FF and REW repeatedly than have to watch commercials.

So now what? The internet? Dunno about you, but I can’t remember the last time I even looked at or read a banner advertisement, much less click on one. I’m already starting to largely ignore sponsored links at the top of search result pages, but that’s probably a product of my being in the search business for almost six years now. This vehicle remains effective, though, because most regular web surfers simply don’t know the difference between a paid search result and an “organic” search result – they just click on the first result. It will probably remain quite effective, I suppose, as it’s one vehicle where the advertiser can actually gauge and track user response. Seems a lot of advertisers are still in their infancy in truly understanding the options and opportunities that search presents – and it may already be too late. My gut sense is that this, like everything else advertising related, is cyclical at best, but the model itself (cost-per-click, etc) will endure somehow.

Why? Simple – if you’re an advertiser selling Toyota’s in Acton, MA, you’d much rather buy the keyword “Toyota Dealers in Acton, MA” than call the local cable TV provider and buy the time on the air and hope the viewer doesn’t fast forward through it and hope you’re reaching your demographic and hope that it’s not a 13-2 baseball game and hope the viewer isn’t staring blankly into the refridgerator or putting their kids to bed.

So what’s left? Product placement in movies and TV shows? Don’t think so, bub. When I’m watching a movie or show, I’m paying attention to the story, dude, not that some chick is carrying a Kade Spade bag or some guy is drinking Red Bull.

So what’s left? Well, community, for one. The drop-dead fantastic Craigslist isn’t necessarily an outlet for national advertisers, but someone or some entity is going to come along and make that community thing work for advertisers. It’s going to be a very tall task to reach consumers effectively in the short term. And I don’t know quite how it will happen yet, but it will happen. It could very well be internet video, but if I’m in charge over at the awesome YouTube and I start forcing video ad spots before the video you’ve selected, I’d be worried stiff that my community is going to go away as quickly as they came. I’m not sure it’s going to work.

But community, the act of regular people or entities sharing content – somehow, someway – is what will control this. The inmates aren’t fully running the asylum yet, but it’s not far off. Community has already ruined the major music record labels (and good riddance, baby!). Community is the reason why the help wanted sections in the physical newspapers are 6 pages now instead of 60. In short time, community will send Hollywood ass-over-end as filmmakers – real filmmakers – will finally get their due. And it’s community that will take a large bite out of the size of your magazine.

So if you’re running a company today, how do you market your products and/or your clients products? Tough question in today’s world, innit?