I keep thinking of the various ways large Internet companies such as Google and Facebook try to provide “free” services while their real aim is to serve ads to people and make money. There is nothing wrong with trying to make money, but for me companies like Facebook represent everything that is wrong with the way ad-funded businesses are going about it. The constant erosion of privacy for anyone with a Facebook/Google/LinkedIn/etc account is well known.

Advertising is indeed important for businesses. But why this desire to be subversive just to try and serve ads? Why not have a few websites which are dedicated for advertising, and people can visit those sites when they are on the market for something? So in effect this would be “pull advertising” rather than “push advertising”. “Push advertising” is the equivalent of vendors nagging you on the street while you trying to go for a walk, which can be rather annoying. Or following you whenever you are out and about so that they can observe you and learn about your habits, and then fish out products which they think you might need or be interested in. Wouldn’t it be creepy if that happened in real life? That is how online advertising works currently.

Here is an alternative which I call “pull advertising”. Imagine a portal where businesses/individuals paid to advertise their products and services. When people want to buy something, they would do a search on this website, using various filter criteria such as location, and all relevant matches would be shown, including the current sale price. Customer clicks through and makes a purchase. Easy. No need to build “social networking” sites, tricking people into revealing things about themselves just to sell them washing machines, coffee machines etc. Just make the information available, and people will come and find it when they need it. Such a portal could be quite feature rich. Imagine a scenario where you had salespersons at the end of a video link. Just as one would walk up to a store assistant in  a physical store, one could have a video chat with a salesperson who could clarify some product feature.

That raises the question: “How do new businesses advertise their products/services?” The answer to that would be user preferences. If a user were interested in knowing about new products/services in a certain category, they could subscribe to either receive push updates from a portal such as the above, or be shown these ads when they are interacting with the portal. In this way, online advertising will also be forced to be a bit more creative to attract people’s attention.

The answer is not ebay. ebay is the online equivalent of a car boot sale. I want the wide variety of stores (online and physical) that we have today, but a central place to compare the offering of various retailers, or discover new products. I guess I want the online equivalent of a trade fair.


4 thoughts on “Advertising

  1. Interesting view, but is what you are proposing not already available as groupon as an example. Push advertising is playing I the placed marketing and playing to catch the audiences eye, to drive them to a site to purchase.

  2. Groupon’s business model is unsustainable. The anecdotal evidence I have of retailers who’ve used Groupon to attract customers is that the customers stopped coming when the deals stopped. And the retailers were in many cases making a loss on the deals they offered through Groupon.

    My fundamental objection to push advertising is that it is horribly intrusive and open to abuse by the companies which push these ads. They are collecting an unprecedented amount of information about each person’s browsing history. Corporate mantras such as “Don’t be evil” are laudable, but enforcing such ideals is very hard, if not impossible.

    Pull advertising is better in my view because you as a business interact the customer when the customer is interested and engaged. As to the challenge of how to inform customers about new products without intruding on their privacy, well you just need to get creative without being intrusive 🙂

  3. Yeah, all our data have been sold-cycled. But on a left-side perspective, the philosophy behind pull advertisement is that humans will ought to know what they want at any point in time. So will have to be restricted to what our ‘little kidney’ thinks that we actually need. A good comparison here could be a clothing company – they design and make the choice for us. We must buy what is available in the markets/shops. Tailors are now for mass production, no longer for individual dealings. People are busy, something have 1hr to shop before their party so are bent on ready-made with less planning. Google & Co was fast enough to reform this model and put into different monetizing views – changing man’s behavioral intention to consume…

    1. I agree, businesses have to figure out a way to introduce new products and services to people. But the way advertising is being done today seems to be the worst possible way from a privacy perspective. I think this area is ripe for innovation!

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