The consumer is in control! Remember that rallying cry from the first decade of this century?
The advertising industry goes through so many fads so rapidly, you'd be forgiven for forgetting.
As it turns out, consumers are still in control -- perhaps even more so. Not only are they cutting cords and spurning print and skipping ads on TV, they're now screwing up the internet and mobile advertising ecosystems. The promise of a hyper-targeted, data-fueled ad environment that would allow marketers to sell their goods and publishers to squeeze some dimes out of digital? It's suffering from banner blindness just like earlier ads and, if recent reports are to be believed, an explosion in the use of ad-blocking technology.
The in-control consumer apparently has an insatiable appetite for professional, expensive content (and, let's face it, a lot of cheap garbage too), but not much love for the advertising that foots the bill.
The response to this has been somewhat muted up until now.
One reaction has been to insist that marketers make better ads. I laud this impulse. But let's not kid ourselves. Given a choice, consumers would rather not have their preferred content interrupted with advertising -- even good advertising. They typically endured ads because they had to, or because the alternative cost money. But now, thanks to technology, that's not so true.
Of course, marketers and publishers could also respond by sitting the consumer down for a very adult conversation about the implicit media contract in this country, the one in which they get all that content for free or at a steep discount in exchange for marketers running advertising in or near that content. It's a symbiotic relationship, really, and one that works out pretty well for everyone.
One way of conducting this conversation is restricting access to publishers' sites for anyone running ad blockers, and explaining nicely why this is being done. But it's a bad idea to believe that consumers care much about the plight of marketers or publishers. It's an even worse idea to explain that in the symbiotic relationship being discussed, the consumer is the freeloading parasite in the equation.