We’ve heard coming for years. First we discerned the slow crack as media began to fracture into countless shards. Then, there was the Perot-esque sucking sound of consumers leaving traditional media for digital. Next, a hiss like air being let out of a balloon, as the incomparably measurable digital medium showed advertisers their ROI, and and the ad-dollar bloat began to deflate. Finally, the disorganized cacaphony of content producers (reality TV) and advertisers (Boston ad stunt) trying to hold their ground.
Then, there was the warning bark of the consumer: No more calls at dinner time (do not call legislation)! No more commercials (Tivo)! And now, No more junk mail (today’s news with a dozen states preparing do not mail legislation)!
Content producers and advertisers had better cock an ear to the distance, because the sound is getting louder. We need to heed, above all, the golden rule of media. Serve content and advertising unto consumers as you would like it served unto yourself. Consumers are not greedy visigoths. They are human. They know that content costs money. Present them with a choice and a value proposition, and they will pay.
It a simple formula: Ad-free content costs $X. Ad-sponsored content is free. We won’t shove ads down your throat, into your mailbox, over your phone, inundate your inbox. Instead, we will offer you the choice of your ads. Like cars? Like cosmetics? You got it. Don’t like any of it, you can pay to be free.
There’s an old phrase in retail, “Live by price, die by price.” It’s been shown again and again that consumers are interested in more than just price, including “free.” Take the last Harry Potter movie. $400 million at the box office. And everyone knew 120 days later, it would be on sale. But they went anyway. Take convenience stores– a category created single-handedly by supermarkets who put the milk in the back. People will pay more for a gallon of milk if it is just convenient.
For advertisers and content producers, the maxim has transformed: Live like pests, die like pests. The peskier and more persistent we become, the more consumers will swat at us like flies. Consumers are forming a powerful herd. Put your ear to the ground and you can hear the rumble. It’s time to listen, or be run over.