I remember waaay back in the late ’90s being told being told by countless internet experts that advertising was dead because of the internet.

And that TV and TV advertising was also dead. Or in its death throes.

And that we were about to enter a glorious new age of Long Tail utopia where content wanted to be free and people were going to become ultra-rational and somehow immune to advertising and persuasion in general.

Like Spock on Star Trek!

Well that didn’t pan out did it.

Once again in the early-mid 2000s, advertising (and TV) was about to die for different reasons.

This time it was social media. And the wisdom of the crowd. And…a bunch of stuff that you don’t get because you’re too damn stupid! And I’m a goddamn social media expert! So shut up!

At least that’s how it felt ;-)

Now undeniably, whenever something wins (the internet!) something has to lose. And print media has evaporated at a shocking rate.

And I know I watch less – but better quality—TV than I used to. For what that’s worth.

I suspect I’m not alone.

The problem with both doomsday scenarios and utopian predictions is that they fail to take into account humanity.

Most people are somewhere in the middle on most things.

Life is complicated. We like a bit of this and a bit of that.

We rarely go all in. Life is plain more interesting that way.

Humanity is humanity.

And humans are driven by things other than media and technological innovations.

They’re nice and all, but they’re not really real. People are real.

I remember seeing an hilarious TV show from the 1950s where British intellectuals tried to predict the effects of TV on the mass audience.

“Ballet and opera could now be disseminated to everyone! Surely new age of enlightenment was upon us!”

“Cinema would certainly now die now that films could viewed in your living room!”

(In the spirit of the times, I am going to crowdsource the brilliant and profound wrap-up paragraph to this blog post. Thank you crowd! I’m sure it will be just awesome!)


  1. I checked. Its dead. No mist on the mirror. Its not stirring. Kicking. Or doing back flips. And it owes back taxes and forgot to close the door as it was hitting it on its ass on the way out.

  2. Oh you were talking advertising. Sorry. I need to check. Nope. I got a bunch of circulars in my Sunday paper. Its still alive. Sunday paper ain’t dead yet either. I have one!

  3. Howie, a lot of people confuse advertising as they know and perceive it with the act of promoting your brand. That’s what i’m talking about.

    advertising has been described as the tax you pay for not being remarkable. and that may be true. but it’s also true that most stuff is not remarkable all the time.

    most stuff is boring. and excellence is hard!

    and capitalism is competition.

    and that’s where brand promotion comes in. for example those sunday paper circular ads work like a motherfucker.

  4. In time advertising will simply be unable to adapt. Much like it was unable to transfer from print to radio, then radio to TV, then TV to the internet.

    So it goes.

  5. Coming from a Direct Sales background where I can identify all my potential customers (businesses), I can’t imagine trying to sell to ‘everyone’ without advertising. So it will never die. Format or content might change.

    I agree with you Vinny. Your post and the follow up to my wry remarks. But seriously how can you be remarkable with an Ad for Baking Soda.

    So is it the Ads that are not remarkable or the fact 98% of the stuff we need in our lives is not remarkable.

  6. don’t forget that humanity prefers illusion over reality and will do anything to keep their illusion breathing (just look at the social media “experts”).

    you don’t want your Facebook friend telling you the car you’ve been saving for the last 3 years and finally bought it is crap. you want your friend to congratulate you on an awesome purchase (“wow, spoiler is sooooo cool!”).

    so advertising will never die. the void would be to hard to handle.

  7. howie, having worked on big brands for my entire career i can tell you tell that business is war. it’s a neverending battle for share and revenue. a grim fight. advertising can help in that fight. that’s the real reason it will continue. 90% of everything (including 90% of the ads for everything) will always be mediocre. i could do a kickass baking soda ad. that’s not hard. look at old spice.

    and i would agree with riki. people are emotional beings. what’s the old quote? we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. true dat!

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