This Little Piggie…!

Started this post with a very positive perspective after reading a digital article from Adweek. The topic was “Why Digital Agencies Are Indeed Ready to Lead“. Since I consider myself a “digital agency” I, of course, didn’t understand why the question even had to be asked! Of course they are! In fact, they better start doing so right away or the modern advertising business as we know it is in BIG trouble. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think, here we go again, proponents of the “Horse and Buggy” rattling on about how the “combustion engine” just isn’t ready for a productive role in society!150px-early-gasoline-engine-models Or so I thought at first. Although the author’s perspective was similar to my own; change is inevitable – why fight it, I started thinking about the points D.A. opponents have brought up. Change is inevitable, but just what are the repercussions? The horse and buggy did dissappear and in its place, air pollution, global warming, traffic jams and oil dependancy.¬† Hmmmmm…..

Not that I’ve any doubts as to the future of advertising and digital advertising in particular, but it is a very nascent economic reality, ripe for both innovation and exploitation. In short, is the evolution of advertising from “external” messaging to “personal” communication a good thing or not? In my previous article, I talked about “Awesomeness” as a product in and of itself, but also mentioned that although the concept is real and should be something we all should strive for, not too many “innovators” of awesome seem to be stepping up to the plate. In fact, advertising in general and particularly digital advertising, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. According to my personal “business Guru”, Umair Haque, not just digital advertising, but the entire international digital economy is heading for its very own subprimesubprime crisis“!

His point is that the Digital Economy is embracing the same quick profit schemes Wall Street embraced from 2001-2008. Instead of coming up with clever and creative ways to “engage” or “reengage” consumers with brands and products, there is a preference for creating “toxic” schemes that generate money and nothing else. He makes his point by focusing on Facebook’s advertising policies and the proliferation of spoofing, spamming and cloaking ads disguised as popular social games that suck up user data for its own ends. These “spoof” games then pass this info to ad networks that further exploit this info to other ad networks etc. Sounds a lot like “mortgage” derivatives to me! After reading the article and having done a few facebook and twitter apps myself in the last few months I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Mr. Haque has a point.

The work that I’ve done were for reputable brands through reputable agencies, but I still can’t help but be curious as to who is making the money from “Farmville” and “Mafia Wars”? Certainly not the consumer. In fact, its the consumers who are being consumed! Spam advertisers prey regularly on farmvillecollecting user data from Facebook, MySpace ,and even professional networks like LinkedIn, then selling the data and/or click-thrus to other networks or even brands.

Now advertising has always had an uphill battle in terms of reputability, but somehow I can’t help but think that “adopt a cow” is a far cry from the slick, “creative” advertising I grew up with. Beautiful models in magazines, innovative and creative television commercials that were far more memorable than the products they sold. This creativity not only gave advertising its legitamacy, but whether anybody bought the product or not, it was the innovative thinking that made ads themselves valuable. If nothing else, to succeed in the advertising business you at least had to be creative. But today the trend seems to be that¬† both consumers and producers are not turning to creativity, much less “awesomeness” but to what Mr. Haque calls the “zombieeconomy“. Giving the scope and reach of social networks and the Internet in general this is a pretty depressing, even frightening, zombies_1thought. Can “Digital Advertising” become the new harbringers of creativity, entertainment and awesomeness of all types, or just the next big calamity waiting to happen?

I’ll leave you with Mr. Haque’s own words:

The only viable solution to the zombieconomy is a better kind of business, built from the grass-roots up: a new generation of radical innovators that challenge and disrupt lame, brain-dead 20th-century business. The kind of business that, for example, push-markets toxic junk to kids.

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