Ad-Killers

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Wrestlers sculpture – cast from ancient statue now in Florence. Cast 1885, now in Fairmount Park at the Horticultural Center, Philadelphia

Advertising is just plain rude, disrupting our vistas, our entertainment, our quest for enlightenment with self-serving messages from a company or organization. We The People have put up with it for about a hundred years, but it’s time to take back our landscapes.

Dish just helped our cause by releasing its Auto Hop ad-erasing technology. A lot of people think Dish wrote its own death warrant, jeopardizing content distribution arrangements with the networks. But it is a necessary and heroic move that might finally bring the TV business model into the digital age.

From a branding perspective, Dish is poised to position itself as the video entertainment provider that puts the customer first, giving her more control over content. In fact, this would be an ideal time for a customer-service overhaul within Dish, training service and support employees to ensure that every customer hangs up the phone smiling.

To appease content suppliers, Dish can set TV free from its dependence on advertising. They can offer different levels of ad-erasing at different prices. Cheapskate ad-haters could pay less by choosing which categories of ads appear with their content, making targeting even more precise. Spendthrifts would pay a premium for total-ad-killing, which goes to the networks as fees for their ad-free programming.

TiVo designed ways to force viewers to see ads even though they were fast-forwarding through ads. But this is a technology-based solution and doomed to eventually fail as technology advances. And, dangerously, they are grappling with consumers, trying to force them to watch something they don’t want to. I recall the scene in Clockwork Orange where Alex is physically restrained and his eyes are propped open so that he cannot turn away from the violent films he is forced to watch as “therapy.”

The less advertising a consumer is subjected to, the more joy he feels. Madison Avenue must find a way to add to–not disrupt–the pleasure of the consumer. Either they make ads interesting (witness viral commercial videos and Superbowl ads), or they find other media, other places, other times and modes of advertising that will allow them to educate, motivate, facilitate sales at the place and time of peak involvement–when people actually want information about products: in the aisles, at car shows, putting together a grocery list at Peapod, planning an itinerary on TripAdvisor. Get them while they are shopping, not having fun (unless shopping is having fun)–which is why Google succeeds where Facebook does not.

Yet as blogger Noah Brier reminds us on Percolate, the other job of advertising (beside to sell) is to create need, and that if Facebook figures out how to do this, it’ll be bigger than Google.

About Ruth Zamoyta

Communications strategist, project manager, épée fencer, poet.

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