Wednesday, December 21

Advertising Time: Real Time Vs. My Time

Louis Gray wrote an interesting post about real time news, especially as it relates to the explosion of interest spurred along by social sharing tools. In truth, it probably started happening before social networks. Most blog posts have a perceived shelf life (even if freshness might not matter).

Most people readily jumped on the bandwagon, with some people saying that delayed news will no long be acceptable. When they don't have enough time to keep up with readers, they reconcile everything at the end of the week, scanning the first two or three before marking the last 50 read. Even Google wants the Web fresh, enough so that it is willing to alter search algorithms to favor freshness over depth.

Gray's point is right on the money. Real time could very well be a temporary trend, fueled by an illusion. Every day, we receive nuggets of real time news a mile wide and an inch deep, when what we usually want is in-depth information on whatever topic might happen to be top of mind.

Good luck finding it. Even something as simple as an album review can be difficult to find under the wash of "fresh" track listings for more popular artists releasing an LP. Don't bother looking for song lyrics for any band with fewer than two million fans. Ringtone companies have that search sewed up. And many companies operating on networks, assuming they respond at all, are more interested in creating the illusion of real time service. Your issue will be resolved just as quickly by picking up the phone, with the only caveat to make it public.

Real time doesn't hold a candle to what people want, and marketers might take notice.

But it's more than that where Gray strikes at the heart of the matter. We don't want freshness. We want on demand content when we want it, much like more and more people expect their entertainment served up.

"Advents in information and content sharing over the last few years have instead made 'on demand' a reality, getting me what I want when I want it, not when someone else decides for me," writes Gray.

This gave me some pause about marketing too. Since the 1950s, advertisers have been attempting to create a false sense of urgency with ever increasing last chance "opportunities." Never mind that your last chance to save 40 percent really means until next Monday when we restart the email.

When you really think about what advertisers are doing (beyond telling you that they mark their products up so high that their profit margin can absorb a 40 percent reduction), they are marketing urgency with the expressed objective to convince you to make a purchase on their time.

Sometimes it works. But just because it works today, doesn't mean it will work tomorrow.

Consumers might be ripe to experience "on demand" marketing much like they enjoy on demand entertainment today and maybe, as Gray suggests, on demand news tomorrow. The best time to offer someone a discount is when they want to buy the product — their time, on demand.
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