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Changing the Advertising Paradigm

November 13, 2014 - Marketing - , ,
By: Chris Riley

We know advertising is necessary as a tool to generate revenue, demographic information and more customers. From the user perspective, though, the very people we want to target and engage can be alienated because most advertising is a “take-take” proposition. Advertising draws you in with interest, and then (ideally) takes your money when you respond to what the ad is selling. This quite naturally can create an adversarial relationship with the viewer.

What if we were somehow able to change the “take-take” dynamic to “give and take?” Games like Tower Madness 2 have been experimenting with new paradigms for advertising—actually paying players in-game premium currency to watch ads. On the surface, this seems like the paradigm shift we are looking for, but is it really? In terms of relating to the customer, yes, it is. The player completes the task and receives premium currency. At the same time, the player is able to play more (or faster or better depending on what the app’s premium currency does), sees more ads and may even be more likely to spend real-world money to continue their progression high. In the end, this type of arrangement is really only “give-ish and take.”

There has been some pushback on this model, but not necessarily from users. Earlier this year, Apple rejected several apps attempting this type of monetization. One reason may have been that when these ads were for other apps, their rankings on the App Store were artificially inflated. Although not confirmed by Apple, and even though users don’t seem to mind this type of advertising infrastructure specifically because of the “give-ish and take” set up, Apple prefers their users to find apps organically.

A recent successful indiegogo campaign has introduced us to what may be a true “give-give” scenario. Adcent, the brainchild of marketing veterans Angus Robbie and Martin Cinzar, is a website and app built to use advertising to give back. After setting up a profile in Adcent, you’ll be given access to a list of ads curated to meet your interests and demographics. The difference between Adcent and regular ads, though, is that when you click to watch an ad, a donation will be made to your chosen charity. Not only do you have full control over the types of ads you see, your activity results in supporting the causes you care about. If Adcent is successful, we may see more advertisers adopting this model of promoting social good in return for ad views.

This theory of incentivization does translate to broader business practices. Quite a bit of webspace right now is being used just to sell viewers to ad networks which results in the dilution of actual valuable content on the web. When the majority of what we see is rapidly generated and SEO optimized for clicks, it’s difficult to believe the articles themselves have any real inherent value as content. While this may serve a revenue-generating purpose at the moment, it’s not a sustainable system. When this saturation of useless content finally drives viewers away rather than toward where we want them to go to, hopefully this will kickstart a trend toward improvement in quality.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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