The Scourge of Abundance.
This week I’d like to double down on a theme I raised last month: ad blocking. (“Another Pox on Our House!”) It’s not that it’s a particularly new topic, or that I get some perverse kick out of piling on. It’s just the latest symptom of an affliction that’s plagued online marketing for years: the Scourge of Abundance.
Who remembers brand safety? It seems we were talking about that particular ailment just a few months ago. But since then we’ve seen outbreaks of non-viewability, fraud and now – like the comeback of a retro disease like scurvy or consumption – the resurgence of ad blocking software.
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What these all have in common is that they stem from a business that’s been built on a set of faulty premises: the proposition that more ads are always better; the idea that we should be maximizing the fill rate of all available ‘inventory;’ and that somehow our fortunes are to be mined from a future where our already-unimaginable supply of ads gets even bigger. Even McDonald’s has stopped focusing on the “billions and billions” of hamburgers served over the years, talking instead about the unique experience you may have with one of their products or restaurants.
We digerati love to carp about how television is getting more than its ‘fair share’ of ad spending (as though ‘fairness’ were even relevant, but that’s another post). But one thing TV has been really good at is establishing and managing scarcity. On one level – available inventory – it’s a much smaller business than ours; on another – advertiser investment – it’s still a behemoth.
I think even the dead-enders among us realize now that “more ads” is not the answer. Instead, we need to identify those things in that are scarce – a ridiculously valuable audience segment, a unique brand experience, a smart integration – and work backward from those points of value. We’ve had 20 years of doing less and less with more and more: It might be time to start doing more with less.