Is advertising broken?

Is the advertising business model fundamentally flawed? This is a question that I, among many others, have been thinking about lately given the recent controversial spotlight shined on several of Silicon Valley’s most prominent internet companies.

At the center of the attention are Facebook and Google, who, among others, derive a significant chunk (the leading majority) of their revenue from the advertising model.

I ask the question…is advertising broken?

My line of questioning follows as such:

Consumers want good experiences. Does advertising improve the experience of using a product?

Answer: Advertising makes things that would cost money free to users. So it is better.

Sure. So advertising is better than paid.

The problem, though, is that consumers are geared towards internet products being free. We expect FB to be free. We expect google to be free. The incumbent is free.

So the baseline, therefore, is not free vs. paid but rather ad-supported vs. free.

Now I re-ask the question are products with ads on them better than those without. The gut answer is of course not. Who wants to see ads?

I answer with…from the lens of say facebook…who wants to see bad ads. Good ads, they would tell you, enhance the experience. They connect businesses to consumers. They are part of discovery.

You just have to give us your data…

Do you believe that pitch? I am not sure if I do….but maybe I do. Maybe that is what will save advertising.

But it does not really matter if I believe that pitch. What is important is whether or not mass consumers believe that pitch.