NY Times Discovers That Advertising Is Content; Content Is Advertising

from the about-time... dept

For many years we've been repeating the idea that advertising is content and content is advertising, and if you think one is different than the other, than you're not going to understand today's content business models at all. More and more people have been figuring this out over the years, and it's nice to see the concept finally warrant a mention in the NY Times, where it covers a recent T-Mobile ad that aired on TV only once, but spread like wildfire online. You can see it below:
The NY Times focuses on how this kind of advertising is "free," but that only gets part of the point. Yes, if others are passing along your content it's "free" advertising, but in order to get others to pass along your content for free, it needs to actually be good -- and you have to make sure it's actually advertising what you want it to advertise.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 6:11pm

    ...but at the point where everything is advertising, there is no longer content, and the public tunes out.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 7:01pm

    Re:

    ...but at the point where everything is advertising, there is no longer content, and the public tunes out.

    That's backwards everything. The whole point is that all content IS advertising already. It's just a question of "for what." And people don't tune out, they TUNE IN, on purpose, because the content itself is enjoyable.

     

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  3.  
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    yogi, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    Now that is a beautiful commercial

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 7:29pm

    It's like if they put a soft drink in a movie/show and have someone ask someone else to hand them that soft drink then they don't need commercials, they can integrate what's being advertised with the movie (content). But when they cut the movie/show out to give you a commercial I just leave the screen and come back when the commercials are over (though I don't really watch much T.V. to begin with).

     

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  5.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Re:

    a simple way of putting it is : "filler advertising, lazy advertising, crappy advertising is no longer worth the public's eyes".

    99% of the commercials out there are crap. It's not that they all have to be that way, plenty of people have been creative and relevant. Those are no longer "premium" things, those are standard/required to be worth anything. These things are the parts of advertising that make it content.

    You have to be creative, compelling, you know all those things that happened before people just took money and thought they could just keep throwing the same old ideas out there.

    Short summary of the problem: lazy/old bad execs, for the most part.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 8:10pm

    Re: Re:

    let me repeat myself, I think you can't read:

    "...but at the point where everything is advertising, there is no longer content, and the public tunes out."

    The moment the public realizes that they aren't getting actual content anymore, but actually are just eating an ad, they tune out. True, you think that everything is marketing for something, but that isn't the case, at least not directly.

    I find myself tuning out TV programs and magazines that spend too much time on inline ads and not as much on actual content. Example would be your friend Chris Anderson's Wired magazine. More and more, the magazine is a giant inline, editorialized ad space, often promoting the "cult of personality" branding systems. Heck, they have allowed Guest editors to pretty much hose the magazine end to end, and have selected graphical layouts that make the content hard to seperate from the advertising. The results? Wired is a very, very thin magazine right now, starting to look like a Business 2.0 rather than a Byte - both of which died.

    When the overall scheme of things is all ads, people do tune out. Keep it subtle and keep them entertained, you can go forever. Cross the line, and you lose people's trust and they mentally head for the exits.

     

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  7.  
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    Chris Maresca (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 8:32pm

    This works are so many levels...

    ... not only is the video very, very cool, but people's reaction to it is hugely enthusiastic ("don't go!"). It's hard enough to make your message heard these days with all the ad venues, but this resonates with people. It makes them feel good when things are bleak, gives them a collective experience to talk about for months and gets the brand message across. This is not about selling you something, it's about making T-Mobile your first choice when you are ready to buy.

    The followup sing along in Trafalgar Square is equally brilliant. Bravo, well do. The ad agency earned it's money and more. Awesome, I watched it twice.

    Chris.

     

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  8.  
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    kenfretz (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 8:42pm

    Great Video, Lousy Commercial

    Fun to watch, great to forward to others but what’s it selling and I’m a T-Mobile customer.
    …or just what brand of battery is the bunny selling?
    Ken

     

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  9.  
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    Chris Maresca (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 9:42pm

    Re: Great Video, Lousy Commercial

    It's not selling anything. It's a brand commercial.

    The idea is the next time you go to buy a mobile phone, T-Mobile will either be your first choice, high on your list or even, now back on your list. And if you are an existing customer, they are hoping that by making you feel good, being cool and entertaining, you won't switch carriers.

    Basically, it doesn't need to sell you anything, just be memorable in a positive way.

    Chris.

     

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  10.  
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    Chris Maresca (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 9:46pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I guess you've never heard of product placement.

    Almost every form of visual entertainment has embedded advertisement these days, so much so it's hard to separate the advertising from the content. That's the whole point Mike is making and you are in violent agreement even if you can't see it...

    Chris.

     

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  11.  
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    zcat (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 9:56pm

    "best commercials"

    If people will 'tune out' how do you explain those one-hour "Best commercials" shows that seem to be really, really popular just about everywhere? People know those are going to be one hour of just ads before they even turn the Telly on.
    Or all those viral ad clips on youtube. People know it's an ad from the description but it still 'goes viral' which is pretty much the polar opposite of 'tuning out'.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The moment the public realizes that they aren't getting actual content anymore

    The point is that it IS actual content.

     

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    FatGiant (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:15am

    "Life is Sharing"

    :) Nothing more to say!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:20am

    Re: "best commercials"

    Good advertising in and of itself is entertainment - but for every entertaining commercial, there are hundreds of useless ads.

    "Wacky Waving Hands Inflatable Sign!"
    "Wacky Waving Hands Inflatable Sign!"
    "Wacky Waving Hands Inflatable Sign!"
    "Wacky Waving Hands Inflatable Sign!"

    What "goes viral" is what is unique and good - but there is little unique and good. Oh yeah, most of the viral ads I get from friends are usually European and involve something to do with sex - Americans are so freaked out by frank sexuality that they have to secretly share it with all their friends.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ...and my point is that at a point where the content is more to do with sales and less to do with content, people will once again tune out. The T-mobile commercial you show is an example of entertaining enough to make people watch, regardless of the product.

    It does hit similar campaigns from the 80s and 90s where companies pushed off ads that often never had their products in them at all, just a small logo at the end or a single catch phrase. They were popular for a while, and then the public tuned them out and they were gone.

    You cannot look at any single moment in time (current ad methods) and extrapolate them out of time. The public as a whole is stupid and slow, but there is a tipping point where even the morons stop paying attention (see the decline of MySpace for more info on tuning out over commercialized things).

    A few years from now, the new trend will be "ad free content" or "no product positioning movies". Remember in the 60s where every TV show had an "official car" and every car in every outdoor shot was a brand new "that model" car? Hawaii 5-0 was good at that (Jack Lord always drop a big Ford product). The public got tired of looking at it, it stopped being effective, and was dropped for years. This is something that has only in the last few years started to make a comeback in movies, although they are now being a little smarter by only outfitting the good guys with the product, and making the bad guys drive junker versions of other products. That will be fine until the public zones out on it again, and then it starts over.

    Advertising (TV ads) as content isn't a new idea, but it is rarely done well enough to bother. There are a few good ones that have happened, but it doesn't really scale.

     

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  16.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 8:02am

    Here we go again.

    Mike said: "That's backwards everything. The whole point is that all content IS advertising already."
    Semantics aren't a good argument to make a case, Mike.

    Backward thinking consumers will never accept an ad as content, regardless of the definition. There's a reason they're separated, and consumers want to maintain this.

    There's no question an ad can be successful "content", but as you've stated, it must be good. Do you know how many times I hear people whistling the latest song from that credit report ad?

    But the moment this line is crossed, and people (in effect) get charged for this ad disguised as content is when objections begin to increase.

    It's bad enough cable subscribers are paying to stations having ads, imagine how they'll feel if the ad-supported shows are nothing more than ads themselves.

    I get your point, I accept your point, but I can't agree with your point. If it was all the same, then why are companies still calling them "advertisements" instead of "short reality segments"?

    If our thinking is backward, so to is theirs.

     

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  17.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ...and my point is that at a point where the content is more to do with sales and less to do with content, people will once again tune out. The T-mobile commercial you show is an example of entertaining enough to make people watch, regardless of the product.

    Wait, I thought you said people ignore advertising. But that's an ad. But you said people watch it... I'm confused. Or maybe you are! The point is that people will watch good content, and ignore bad content. It does not matter if the good content is an advertisement and the bad content is a feature length movie. All that matters is what's interesting and what's not.

    I think there are differences. If you're reading an editorial, you would definitely care if it's sponsored by a company involved with the issue. In that sense, there is a difference between ads and non-advertising content - one is a message coming from a company selling a product, the other is produced without any such motive. Or at least I hope there is still such content.

     

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  18.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "...and my point is that at a point where the content is more to do with sales and less to do with content, people will once again tune out."

    (sarcasm) Yeah, like they stopped going to Disneyland since Disney became just one big commercial for itself.(end)

    Disney is a great example of content that is all advertising. Content sells resort visits, resort visits sell souvenir gifts, all in one big 'circle of life'. But people keep eating it up, because it is ALSO fun, entertaining, and well produced.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Pay attention! they are watching it because it isn't an ad - and at the moment it becomes an ad (pop up the logo) a large majority go back into "it's an ad" mode and stop paying attention.

    The content part is great, but the transition to being marketing again is where the audience gets lost. 30 second commercial with 26 seconds of attention of 4 seconds of channel surfing it not going to be a huge success at selling stuff. It might go viral, blah blah, but will it actually sell anything?

     

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  20.  
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    Christopher Ming Ryan, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 6:35pm

    NY Times Discovers That Advertising Is Content; Content Is Advertising

    I think this type of soft sell advertising which makes people feel good as opposed to telling them features and benefits of the products is what works on the social web these days.

    I wrote a post about this type of content spreading like wildfire because, the web user thinks of himself as a "owner" vs. the TV watcher is more of a "renter."

    http://christophermingryan.typepad.com/thewaywewatch/2009/05/television-viewers-are-ren ters-web-users-are-owners.html

     

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  21.  
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    Michelle1976 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2009 @ 7:29pm

    Exceptional Content Is King!

    Speaking of good content, you packed so much critical information in this one post. If you are going for viral marketing they exceptional content, the only kind the people ever take the time to pass along. Just browse some video sites like Adwido to get ideas.

     

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