by Michael O'Neill
October 8th, 2013

They gathered last month in the city that never sleeps.

Their goal? To figure out how to clog up our social media channels with more advertising.

Who were these people? Advertisers. Last week was Madison Avenue’s annual conference in New York known as Advertising Week.

As expected there was lots of hand wringing about the state of advertising, which isn’t exactly setting the world on fire anymore. One of their solutions, the industry seems to think, is to embed and link traditional advertising to digital and social platforms.

That meant lots of chatter about advertising on Facebook and Twitter (Facebook even hosted a glitzy party for ad executives).

And that, my friends, is the root of the problem. Because people don’t like advertising. In fact, most people are becoming more and more irritated by the constant interruptions of advertising – how it disrupts their favourite TV shows, clutters their commutes with billboards, and pollutes their social media streams.

Madison Avenue needs to cope with a not-so-new reality: Advertising is dying. Few will mourn its passing.

Advertising is on the wane because technology is allowing us to avoid it. DVRs allow us to skip TV ads. Pop-up blockers allow us to block online distractions. Email filters throw spam into the garbage. No one is clamouring for more advertising.

What do people want?

Content. Relevant content that informs. Content that amuses and entertains. Content that’s helpful or insightful. Content they can find on the internet, that they can interact with. Content they can save and share.

Give people that option and you’ll be rewarded with their attention – and their loyalty. The most successful digital and social campaigns take this to heart – from the Oreo campaign using breaking news to inform with creative imagery to the recent Chipotle animated film.

Stop interrupting us. Stop marketing to us all the time. Instead listen to us. Talk to us. Provide us with valuable content that we like and need – and will share.

Unfortunately for Madison Avenue that’s isn’t “advertising.” It’s public relations.

George F. Snell III is senior vice-president, digital & social communications, at Weber Shandwick Boston. This article first appeared on his blog High Talk

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