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blog: Don Marti

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A good question, from Twitter

19 March 2018

Good question on Twitter, but one that might take more than, what is is now, 280 characters? to answer.

Why do I pay attention to Internet advertising? Why not just block it and forget about it? By now, web ad revenue per user is so small that it only makes sense if you're running a platform with billions of users, so sites are busy figuring out other ways to get paid anyway.

To the generation that never had a print magazine subscription, advertising is just a subset of "creepy shit on the Internet." Who wants to do that for a living? According to Charlotte Rogers at Marketing Week, the lack of information out there explaining the diverse opportunities of a career in marketing puts the industry at a distinct disadvantage in the minds of young people. Marketing also has to contend with a perception problem among the younger generation that it is intrinsically linked with advertising, which Generation Z notoriously either distrust or dislike.

Like the man says, Where Did It All Go Wrong?

The answer is that I'm interested in Internet advertising for two reasons.

  • First, because I'm a Kurt Vonnegut fan and have worked for a magazine. Some kinds of advertising can have positive externalities. Vonnegut was able to quit his job at a car dealership, and write full time, because advertising paid for original fiction in Collier's magazine. How did advertising lose its ability to pay for news and cultural works? Can advertising reclaim that ability?

  • Second, because most of the economic role of advertising is in an area that Internet advertising hasn't been able to get a piece of. While Internet advertising plays a game of haha, look what I tricked you into clicking on for chump change, the real money is in signal-carrying advertising that helps build brand reputation. Is it possible to make Internet advertising into a medium that can get a piece of the action?

Maybe make that three reasons. As long as Internet advertising fails to pull its weight in either supporting news and cultural works or helping to send a credible economic signal for brands then the scams, malware and mental manipulation will only continue. More: World's last web advertising optimist tells all!