News flash: There’s no free lunch

by Mathew on May 27, 2007

Today’s award for the most obvious statement about a Web-related issue has to go to the New York Times, which wrote an entire story about how getting “users” to generate advertising actually — audible gasp! — takes work, in the sense that someone has to weed through all the crap in order to produce anything useful. Does this really come as a surprise to anyone?

snipshot_e41cavpxmu70.jpgAs a commenter said on Ryan Sholin’s blog, this definitely falls under the heading of “Free Lunch — isn’t one, etc.” If any of the advertisers quoted in the New York Times story were told by a “Web 2.0″ advisor that they could somehow outsource ad production to “the crowd” and wind up with something just as good as what they produce in-house, then they should sue. But I suspect they weren’t told that. They may have wished that was true, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride, as my mother used to say (actually, she still says that). Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 has more on the subject.

As a number of people (including commenters on Scott’s post) have pointed out, however, whether an ad is technically or even creatively as slick and well-crafted as a Madison Avenue spot isn’t the only factor that needs to be considered. In some cases, a quirky, user-created ad like the one Global Nerdy likes, or like the Diet Coke and Mentos video, might actually work better. And getting people to “engage” with the brand may be even more important than the actual technical brilliance of the ad.

Let’s put it this way: there are plenty of ads that are slick and well-produced and no doubt cost millions, and do absolutely nothing for me whatsoever, just as there are Hollywood blockbusters with stars up the wazoo and giant budgets that barely even register. But a small, quirky, independent film can really touch you. As Heather Green notes over at the BusinessWeek blog, there has to be some kind of connection there or it won’t work.

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