Be prepared to like advertising

Be prepared to like advertising

January 31st, 2007 | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy

Many of us detest clumsy advertising. Blinking banners on web sites, email that offers us things we neither need nor want, and intrusive ads on movie screens. But there is already some advertising out there that I’m starting to like. Google searches produce in-context ads that have, occasionally, proven useful. Amazon.com is now actually good at recommending things, even though I have eclectic reading tastes. Grocery stores where I’m a “member” now print me coupons that match things I’ve actually bought instead of, for example, diaper coupons when nothing about my spending suggests a young child. Expedia gives me hotel choices for the city I’m flying into.
The more sophisticated customer responsiveness, business intelligence, and other large databases get, the more ads are starting to save me time rather than spend my time.
Within a few years, large wireless networks will enable location specific ads, and when you couple the networks with the databases that already exist about me, I hope to be able to pop up on a street corner in Seattle, read the menus of the types of restaurant I most like (Asian fusion, tapas, and Northwest cuisine), see what tables are available, and make a reservation.
Will it be a perfect? Of course not. I’ll still be exposed to more ads than I want, but almost never to ads for things I have no interest in at all. To the extent that the large advertising networks can make me happy about what they try to sell me, they’ll probably succeed in selling me more things.
What does this mean for advertisers? They’ll pay more for ads, but they’ll get information to the people they want. Small businesses may be partially cut out of this right now, but as the systems for selling consumer interest to advertisers improve, they’ll be automated enough that small businesses on a budget can use them effectively to advertise to thier specific target markets.
How about consumers? Will I have lost all privacy? Well, yes, and no. These systems are already highly automated (some adjust what they show on the fly, using all automated routines), and private in the “needle in a haystack” sense. Yes, someone with the right knowledge and passwords could probably learn all about my buying habits, but in general they won’t. I simply won’t be important enough as a regular middle-class consumer. The machine will see me as an individual, but in general, people will not have the time or inclination to do that.
And I win. Advertising will become more like a convenience than a bother, at least in most cases.

About Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper has been delivering keynote addresses on the future for over a decade. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Futurist Magazine and on Futurist.com. She is also currently writing a non-fiction series called Backing into Eden, which is being re-published on multiple websites. Her talks are upbeat and positive, and generally focus on how we can solve the big problems facing mankind right now.