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Advertising After the End of Mass Media

by Glen Emerson Morris

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The biggest problem with the end of mass media is that there is nothing readily available for advertisers to replace it with. Direct mail has taken up some of the slack, as have a few other approaches, but they can't replace the attention mass media got with the public, for one key reason. The creative talent that attracted a mass audience is missing.

For over seven decades, radio and TV acted as middlemen between advertisers and a talent pool of gifted pop musicians, film actors, directors and other creative talent. With radio and TV rapidly becoming obsolete, it's up to the advertisers to start developing a direct relationship with talent in a variety of media. After all, that was the way it was before mass media.

In the 1920's and 1930's it was not uncommon for companies to sponsor national tours of dance bands. This practice became so common that it was difficult for a band to book engagements if they didn't have a corporate sponsor. (To get around this Lawrence Welk invented a fictitious company sponsor to get his first bookings. Of course none of the dance hall booking agents had ever heard of the company sponsoring his band, but the mere fact that a company was apparently willing to sponsor his band meant they were good enough to play professionally.)

It would be very easy for advertisers to try the talent sponsoring approach again, and given today's technology additional variations are possible. For instance, a company could sign up a band and carry live and archived feeds on their Website of each of the bands performances as they toured across the country. A business could also carry live and archive concerts from a local concert hall, or for that matter, a local bar or night club.

There is a very large musical talent pool to draw from. It has been estimated that non-signed bands are now producing and releasing twice the quantity of music that the recording industry is on a yearly basis.

To a limited extent, this talent pool is already being tapped by advertisers. It's not uncommon to hear background music on network TV commercials that was provided from up and coming bands that haven't been signed by recording companies. In the future, this will be happening on a much larger scale.

Another approach advertisers could take would be to sponsor writers by publishing books, complete with ads, in Acrobat format online for free downloading from their company's Website. Over the past few decades, the publishing industry has created a large pool of unsigned writers by concentrating on grade A talent at the expense of grade B talent.

Like the recording industry, the publishing industry decided that it was much better to have one artist that sold 25 million copies of something rather than 25 artists that sold a million copies each. This made good economic sense, at least in the short term, but from the public's point of view it meant that there was far less variety available in books and music. It also meant there was less opportunity for grade B artists and writers to become grade A artists and writers. And, more importantly for advertisers, it also meant that a great talent pool was developing with no commercial market to support it.

Another approach possible in a few years will be for businesses to offer streaming media of older movies on their Websites, complete with their own commercials. There are many movies that are considered too old to be shown on network or cable TV that still have drawing power with the 50+ demographic segment. Just consider how seldom films are shown with Cary Grant, James Stewart, Gary Cooper or Bette Davis.

Another talent pool advertisers could exploit is the new generation of movie producers who are making garage movies much like musicians are making records in their garage, Thanks to advances in digital video it's becoming possible to produce broadcast quality movies with just a few thousand dollars of equipment.

A good sample of independently produced films can be seen at the Website In their words "IFILM's advanced streaming-media platform carries the most progressive branding and sponsorship opportunities available on the Web. Next generation advertising units and integrated sponsorship programs resonate with the IFILM audience. As the only place to find and watch movies on the Internet IFILM is uniquely positioned to tap into the power of a connected, influential and motivated group of consumers.

Another option for advertisers not being exploited much is the creation of audio and video infomercials for their Websites. For decades advertisers have been limited to making their case in thirty or sixty seconds. These limits have gone the way of mass media. We are entering an era where half hour infomercials will be as common as 30 second spots used to be. If amateurs can make movies in their garages with almost no budget, companies should be able to produce cost effective infomercials about their products and post them on their Websites.

The only factor holding up widespread implementation of these alternatives to mass media is the relatively slow growth of broadband access in this country. In some countries access at 25 MB a second is available for $25.00 a month or less. In the US, access at 1.5 MB a second goes for around $45.00 a month. Until the US has a truly competitive Internet access market we can expect to lag behind the rest of the world in speed and pricing.

Just as advertisers need to rethink advertising at a fundamental level, we also need to rethink our country's communications policies at a fundamental level. We can replace mass media with a solid mass communications infrastructure, but we're still a long way from having one.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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