April 11, 2018

What do advertisers want?

You can’t be thoughtful about culture without thinking about media, and you can’t think about media without thinking about who’s paying for it.

Advertisers (mostly) want mass. They’d like the SuperBowl, the home page of Google, the shortest route to the largest number of people. It’s easier that way. It’s more fun. It requires less risk.

But of course, it costs too much.

Hence data. Data’s a way of getting mass, but just the mass they’re hoping for. It’s a way of spending less in total (but more per person) in the hope that the yield will go up. It’s also the trend, and advertisers love trends.

The march toward data has been going on since the early online days, at least 1999, the dawn of internet advertising, because the internet can’t be a mass medium. Too many channels, too much interaction. And as it splinters further but requires ever more money to run, the race for data is on.

In this week’s Akimbo, I talk about being there at the beginning of the surveillance race, as well as the option that advertisers and the public can (surprisingly) agree on: limits. Limits give advertisers the guardrails to go back to what they actually want to do, and they give the rest of us a chance to feel safe in a non-commercialized, non-invasive space.

If we don’t push for meaningful legal limits on ad encroachment, hyper-targeting and surveillance, there aren’t going to be any. The ratchet will keep turning.