Monday, November 26, 2007

The attention currency

Who does the money for advertising go to?
Traditionally advertising was intended to subsidize media. TV ads came about as a means for free to air channels to exist; they were sponsors of the TV medium. Similarly; press ads allow free or cheap publications, radio ads allow free radio channels or music, outdoor ads on highways allow toll-free roads, online ads allow free access to internet sites, and sponsorships make it affordable for us to watch live concerts in expensive venues by performs who earn more than the cumulative cost of all the attendees ticket costs.
This works, because as a customer you would accept someone force-feeding you advertisements in exchange for a free experience or a discount at least.

Advertising is considered a secure source of income, this is because it is a diversified investment from many industries (FMCG, Technology, Hardware, etc.) – and it is powerful to the extent that it can support an entire medium over generations, think of TV, newspapers and radio.

Something went wrong during this process as some people started becoming greedy.

Why does the municipality take the money for ads that target you on a highway, even when you pay a fair toll to get on it, and enough taxes to build roads? Or why do you have to see ads on airplanes when you clearly pay a lot of the money for airfare? Why are we forced to watch ads in taxis when we clearly pay the full fair? Why are we given branded boarding passes to planes that we pay for?

I presume this is because you the consumer are being sold. If you walk into a pharmacy, this pharmacy owns your attention and will then sell it to ‘dietary supplement’ brands and the like in the form of shelf talkers and display stands.

In these cases, entity X is taking money from an advertiser to get the share of attention that you may have innocently given to X. I would personally much rather get that money myself! To put it simply if my attention is worth $0.5, why should the pharmacy get that money instead of me? Will advertisers eventually develop their own media in which you view an ad and get a dollar?

In summary, it pays to be popular (literally), and the next time you say “now you have my attention” you should prepare an invoice.

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