Hey, Consume This! The Future of Online Advertising

Here I am at the “Future of Onlilne Advertising” conference, and here we are, 12 or 13 years after the first banner ads were placed. We’re up to at least Web 2.0, according to everyone around. It is my contention that in Web 2.0, companies would discover that talking to, and with, their customers would start to happen.

And yet, the guys on the stage continue to insist on calling the people who visit their sites, buy their products and pay their bills “CONSUMERS.” I’ll even call out the Yahoo guy for naming his presentation “Consumer 2.0.” And I’ll keep calling him Yahoo Guy as long as he calls me consumer.

Hey, buddy, you’re in New York, CONSUME THIS.  I’m a buyer, a customer, a user, a dad, a husband, a tech enthusiast, a major ingredient in Soylent Green, and an 18-54 white male making a $X a year. (I’ll let you know X when I figure it out, ok, but last year it was pretty ok.) You want me to buy stuff and use stuff, and you REALLY want me to recommend your stuff to others, because before anyone I know buys electronics, technology, software, cameras, uses a web site or buys a phone, they call me. I’m an influencer.

Web 2.0, as many have noted, is about People. Then Yahoo guy had a slide saying “Find your best consumers, listen to them, have conversations with them.” Cows are consumers. They eat grass and make milk, and then we consume them for beef or leather or whatever. You don’t have conversations with consumers, unless “moo” is in your vocabulary.

Yahoo did a contest for ‘make your own video’ for Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. They got 10k contributions from “consumers” who consumed more copies of the video and consumed more copies of the music by purchasing (or licensing) it.

Listen, Yahoo guy, good message. Yes, let us make media, and respond to campaigns. But call us who we are, not consumers. You’re Ron Belanger. You’re not a cookie ID or a consumer. You’re in a position to teach people how to speak to “Consumer 2.0.” Start buy calling them Customers. If you have to, call them Customer 2.0. Or Bob. Bob works.

Note, I got sensitized to the word Consumer via Jerry Michalski at http://www.sociate.com/. He’s be talking about this for years. One post, (scroll down the page to “Advertising is War” from 3/10/03, tells the story well.)
In advertising, the best targets are “captive” audiences: people hemmed in by checkout lines, high-rise office building elevators (note the name of the company that puts displays in elevators) or airplane and taxi seats, who these days have to view individual video monitors that are difficult to turn off…. Notice that consumer marketing is like artillery or bombing, not hand-to-hand combat…. In mass marketing, cultural distance gives the “shooters” emotional distance from their targets.

More gems there. Go read it.

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