FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, July 30, 2004

Is TV Advertising Dead?

Whenever a news item appears that discusses the future of advertising, I immediately zero in on it. Not just because I'm a former ad copywriter, but because advertising is, like it or not, a major factor in our lives, and a barometer of where we're going economically, socially and technologically.

This month, Wired has a piece on how males aged 18 to 34 -- for years considered the prime demographic for advertisers -- no longer pay attention to traditional TV advertising. Anyone who follows advertising and marketing trends realizes that this is not news, but it shows that a lot of predictions that were made in the '80's and '90's are coming to pass.

Today's young people (and I include women here as well) are far more media savvy than either the baby boomers or Generation X. They have a mental filter that subconsciously "zaps" TV ads. Plus, they have a lot of media to distract them that people my age (late boomer / early Gen X) didn't have: the Internet, video games, downloading MP3s, DVDs, text messaging, whatever. They multitask because they have to.

The Wired article predicts that TV advertising will become increasingly loud and obnoxious to attract the attention of these young viewers (witness the Quiznos "spongemonkey" ads that ran earlier this year), and will involve more interactivity (as did Burger King's "subservient chicken" ads). Look for guerilla marketing -- a concept that arose in the '80's from small businesses who couldn't afford traditional advertising -- to become the advertising vehicle of choice for even the largest companies. "Viral marketing" and the continued use of the Internet to create buzz around products will increase in prominence as well. However, even these tactics will wear thin after awhile, and marketers will have to be constantly on the lookout for new approaches and angles to capture the attention of an elusive market.