March 19, 2009

Where's The Advertising In Online Advertising?

I have an odd thought about online advertising. What if there's no such thing?

What if it's really a whole lot of other things?

Let's start at the beginning.

In tv, radio or magazines, product marketing is primarily one thing -- ads. Sure, there is some product placement and some pr, but 98% of the "marketing content" is ads.

On the web, it's different. There are social media. There are sites and viral videos. There are banners. There is search. Marketers lump this all together and call it "online advertising" -- but I'm not sure any of it is advertising.

Websites are more like brochures than ads.

Social media is closer to pr than it is to advertising.

Viral videos are more like guerilla tactics and wild postings than ads.

Search is closer to a yellow pages listing than it is to an ad.

A banner is more like a direct mail piece than an ad.

So where's the advertising in online advertising?

Maybe what we're calling "online advertising" is really pr, sales promotion, listings, direct response and guerilla tactics, and just about every form of marketing communication except advertising.

And maybe we've got the model all wrong. When this whole thing started, we had stand-alone online agencies. Now online is integrated into the fabric of most agencies. But what if both these models are wrong?

What if social media would be done better by pr shops? What if websites were created by sales promotion agencies? What if banners were done by direct response agencies?

What if the key competence isn't knowledge of the medium, but knowledge of the discipline?

Of course, the correct answer is that the key competence is neither of these. The key competence is creativity. The work will go where the creativity is, whether we call it "advertising" or anything else.

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