“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
IBM is claiming that advertising will never be the same in their recently published whitepaper titled The End of Advertising as We Know It. Proof once again that advertising is a business dedicated to showing us that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – over and over and over again.
A few questions come to mind. First, should they have included the fact that Sergio Zyman published a book of the same title a decade ago when advertising as we knew it first ended? And more importantly, didn’t anyone live through the 90s hype that “all retail will go away”? The 80’s myth that VCRs would kill TV? The 70s…
IBM’s second absurd claim is that consumers have changed the way they fundamentally choose products to buy. Unfortunately for IBM, there’s one thing that doesn’t change: consumers. Styles change, flavors change, tonalities change – but consumers don’t fundamentally change.
In sociological terms I think mankind is wired for consumer activity. Shopping is a flavor of hunter/gatherer activity. The mere process of evaluating and selecting the goods that surround us satisfies a human instinct. And, believe it or not, well crafted advertising is part of a satisfying human hunter/gatherer process (it just hasn’t always been called advertising).
I begin to view these utopian pronouncements quite cynically. It seems that the most ardent claims of consumer change come from the people who have abused consumers the most in the past (like IBM) and have the most to gain by appearing to have changed themselves.
By contrast, for hundreds of years, the people who have sold the most product have respected consumers in the ways people are now suggesting we’ve just “discovered”.
And so IBM shows us, once again, that the people reaping the most profits from social media aren’t manufacturers, but the agencies and consultants who profit from creating and promoting advertiser use of social media.
Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett.