Is the Internet Breaking Advertising?

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The default assumption of many media pundits has been that advertising dollars will be spent where consumers spend their time: dollars follow eyeballs. So, even if the Internet was snatching time away from print and television, it wouldn't matter in the long-run because eventually advertisers would just spend their money on the Interwebs. Today, Wharton Professor Eric Clemons challenges that view with a broadside published at TechCrunch. What if the Internet is breaking advertising -- completely and for good.

My basic premise is that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it, and all the king's horses, all the king's men, and all the creative talent of Madison Avenue cannot put it together again. To analyze this statement we need a working definition of advertising, and I proposed the following, which is as general as I could make it:

Advertising is using sponsored commercial messages to build a brand and paying to locate these messages where they will be observed by potential customers performing other activities; these messages describe a product or service, its price or fundamental attributes, where it can be found, its explicit advantages, or the implicit benefits from its use.

It is frequently argued that the advertising industry will provide sufficient innovation to replace the loss of traditional ads on traditional mass media. Again, my basic premise rejects this, suggesting that simple commercial messages, pushed through whatever medium, in order to reach a potential customer who is in the middle of doing something else, will fail.

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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