The End of Advertising as We Know It

November 23rd, 2007

An extraordinary monograph has just been published by, of all the unlikely sources, the IBM Institute for Business Value. The End of Advertising as We Know It (PDF) is a publication that is everything you would not expect from a large corporation’s public information efforts: it’s informative, well-researched and well-written, and often provocative, all the while portraying no bias towards IBM, nor making even the slightest attempt to sell IBM services.

The four well-qualified authors base many of their observations and conclusions on a series of surveys and interviews with both consumers and a range of advertising executives (both from the agencies, and from within large corporations). The result is must-reading for anyone interested in the impact of changing technologies and media on the future of advertising.

The text is 21-pages long, so I won’t attempt an extensive recap here: just read the original. Here are several reasons why you must; mostly just direct quotations from the report:

– “Our analysis shows that the actual growth of Internet advertising has outpaced forecasts by 25 to 40 percent over the past two years.”

– “This is the first study I’ve read that intelligently challenges what the future role of advertising agencies will be, and, even more directly, asks “Will advertisers still need a traditional agency?”

– “Amateurs and semi-professionals are now creating lower-cost advertising content that is arguably as appealing to consumers as versions created by agencies.”

– “Advertising inventory is increasingly bought and sold through efficient open exchanges, bypassing traditional intermediaries.”

– “Relevancy outweighs creativity in TV commercials. The ads least likely to be skipped were well-tailored to their audience.”

– “Will consumers reject outright the concept of interruption marketing in the future?”

This is the first advertising report I’ve read that dares to ask the really tough questions about the future of advertising. As they say, you may agree or disagree, but you’re guaranteed to be challenged and provoked.