What does it mean when a social network posts a billboard criticizing billboards? We debated this with Darryl Ohrt last week:
This is such an interesting debate. Let’s put aside that outdoor advertising is the second-fastest growing medium in the U.S. after Internet advertising, or that Americans continue to have record commutes and spend more time in cars than ever before, or that the outdoor industry now has launched new metrics to improve targeting against different demo groups.
I’ll get to the crux: “futility of one-way communication.” There is a huge vibe in advertising circles now that this is bad, it doesn’t work, “we’ve been doing it wrong” — and all this chest-beating is baloney. All the people on ad panels who say this take money from clients with the express intent of influencing others, and one-way communications is primarily how that happens.
Of course one-way communication works. The entire premise of advertising is to get people to buy things they don’t need, or at least don’t know they need yet. None of us asked for cameras on cell phones or minivans, yet those products were created and pushed on us with one-way messaging, and we adopted them. There are far too many products in the world, each shoving their way toward us unwanted, and to suggest that one-way messaging doesn’t work neglects the core need of society to push ideas to others.
Individuals do this, too, of course. A scan of Twitter shows that the majority of messages are one-way broadcasts — here’s a witty thought, here’s a link, please click to my post, etc. Engagement is a fine idea but the truth is humans are egocentric, get up in the morning thinking about themselves, and spend the vast majority of time trying to influence others.
The sneakers you wear and the color of your hair are attempts to tell a story. Your clothes are a one-way attempt to express who you are. You didn’t engage with your audience before making the decision to broadcast those expressions to influence others. You’re pushing it out, one-way.
We attempt to influence others with each opening of our mouth, each key on a keyboard, each expression of our being.
As far as this being old media, well, yeah, people still drive 2 hours a day past billboards. People also watch 5 hours and 9 minutes a day of TV and read boatloads of content in magazines, PC screens and tablets. The delineation of impressions between “old media” and “new media” is a bit silly when it’s really about consumer modality, most of which is passive receipt of message from distance fields (billboards) or closer fields (laptops). Most people watch a lot.
So hat’s off to you, Yammer, for proving one-way communication works. Glad to see the billboard is getting you so much buzz.