Part of my degree was in marketing so I tend to see advertising through a different lens than most. The other part of my degree was in psychology so I can’t help but see the psychological component as well. One dynamic which I find particularly interesting is in how we actively tune out the noise for traditional advertising, but when we see someone we respect engaging positively with a brand, we take note. The Starbucks cup or the Lululemon tote bag may be a bit played out today, but both are great examples of how this works.
Years ago, I was watching TV and noticed how the characters on the show had to avoid mentioning specific brands – likely because they didn’t have approval and seeking approval would’ve required legal paperwork and perhaps a fee. In certain instances, it actually made for rather awkward speech. In reality, we actually reference brands and products on a regular basis, in our regular speech, for the sake of accuracy. Which means that not being able to use brand names in certain areas of media actually hurts the dialogue. Wouldn’t it make sense to write the dialogue as you would naturally, and then approach the brands mentioned in a positive manner for ad revenue?
There are certainly some complexities to this strategy, but I doubt they’re beyond our ability to solve. Based on how I’ve seen things progress, I think this is actually being done now to some extent. What a concept, letting a character talk about their Mercedes or BMW, let them talk about their iPhone or Android, let them talk about their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Script writers would have to maintain integrity so that it didn’t come off as a plug or mini-infomercial, but I don’t think that would be too difficult. The idea isn’t about sneaking an advertisement into something we’re already paying attention to, it’s about letting a brand impression exist where a brand impression would already naturally exist.
So maybe we’re starting to turn that corner, but where does it go from here? I have an idea.
Right now, AI and computer vision allow YouTube to recognize most copy-written material and then defers action to the original owner. As AI and computer division develop further, they won’t just be able to recognize the content, they’ll be able to recognize what’s in the content. Watching a movie, and see a sweet car that you’ve never seen before? No problem, hit pause, hover your mouse over the car and see a few quick details. Super interested? Click on the details and you’ll head straight to the website. Now imagine being able to do that with clothes, foods, toys, and everything else.
If we approach this correctly, I can’t help but think it would be a massive win-win for everyone. No more advertisements. No more commercials. No more jingles. And especially no more manipulation of public perception in the hopes of earning a sale from someone who doesn’t actually need or want your product. If this done correctly though, I think the biggest winners may actually be the businesses.
Rather than guessing at where to advertise, how to advertise, and how much to spend on advertising, just paying per click. Every time someone sees a piece of media that includes your product and someone wants to know more about it, there’s your point of monetization. Next-level pay-per-click advertising. Effectively, you’re only paying to connect people to your product, when they’ve shown an interest in your product. Not only is that a more streamlined approach, it builds trust rather than degrades it.
Efficiency is my North Star. When someone sees something they’re interested in, they want to know more about it. If they learn more about it and they want to buy it, they want a quick and easy way to complete that transaction. Businesses want to provide those details and the option of that transaction to potential customers, however, they would prefer to only spend their advertising budget on people who are interested. This strikes me as a remarkably efficient approach compared to what’s out there now.
Thinking it through a little further, I know there are bound to be a few hiccups. What happens if someone you don’t like is wearing or using your product? What if you’re just getting started and you need to get your product out there to begin with? I could come up with a few other issues that would exist in today’s unspoken rules of advertising but I can’t help but think that it’s just not that complicated. If you’re on the alt-left and someone on the alt-right is wearing one of your products? Grow up. Appreciate the extra revenue, and appreciate that if they’re wearing your stuff, you may have more in common with them than you might think. Just getting started? Send free products out to influencers who would appreciate them. If you have solid product, they’ll show it off and you should end up with a cascading effect. If you send your product out to the people who would appreciate it, and they don’t? Maybe you picked the wrong influencers, or perhaps your product just isn’t very good. Regardless of what obstacles I come up with, the solutions don’t seem very far away.
I’d estimate we’ll have the tools to do this within about 10 years. Whether or not major industry players are interested in challenging the status quo is a different story though. But this is why ‘revolutionary’ has become the holy grail of doing business. Whoever breaks that mold, I’m rooting for you.