Archive for November, 2007

Poof Goes the Ads

November 25, 2007

When they finish the process of better and better targeted advertising, that’s when the whole idea of advertising will go poof, will disappear. If it’s perfectly targeted, it isn’t advertising, it’s information. Information is welcome, advertising is offensive. Who wants to pay to create information that’s discarded? Who wants to pay to be a nuisance? Wouldn’t it be better to pay to get the information to the people who want it? Are you afraid no one wants your information? Then maybe you’d better do some research and make a product that people actually want to know about. Dave Winer

After reading that quote from Dare Obasanjo’s recent blog entry, I was floored by its pregnancy. The best advertising—like the best sales tactics—is invisible: it is about matching someone’s needs perfectly. You’re no longer selling to them, you’re helping them and they can’t buy your product fast enough. What has the progression of advertising been but a long, slow march towards better and better targeting?

I think the end of advertising, this withering away of the message, occurs when the consumer tells the advertiser exactly what advertisement he or she wants to hear. At that point, it really is just information. For me, an excellent example was the fad of the late 90s: the personal agent. Back then, the vision was that people would create “intelligent” agents to go out and do their bidding. The consumer would say “tell me about flights with window seats going from Phoenix to LA leaving December 3rd around 4ish” and the agent would come back with details and ticket information. In reality, that’s the pinnacle of marketing—if the airline conceived the agent. Otherwise, it’s really more like a search engine or travel agent.

Like Dare, I think this is the future. The agent was an idea ahead of its time; the breathless contemporaneous accounts read more like science fiction when compared with the available technology. Technology has caught up, though, and this user-generated marketing is going to be big.

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Our New Addition

November 2, 2007

As regular readers of my family blog already know, I’m in the process of adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia. Since I’m confident that “regular readers of my family blog” describes almost none of you, I’ll recap here.

Prior to ever having kids, we looked into international adoptions as a viable alternative to hardcore fertility treatments. The costs are roughly the same—unless you luck out and conceive immediately—but the end result is guaranteed. If you pay the fees and submit the paperwork correctly, you will have a child at the end of it. You’ll also have a lot more control over the left-to-chance variables (gender and health) inherent in natural childbirth. The only things you don’t get are a baby inside your uterus and the thrill of labor; the bureaucratic gestation period is generally the same—sometimes much, much longer—and the labor involved is much better because the husband gets to bear it as well.

But then we had a baby girl, adopted another baby girl domestically, and had another girl. For a while, we really thought our family was complete. Our girls are joys and we would have been lucky even if we had stopped there. But the fact is, we love kids! They’re just so fascinating, even when they’re maddening.

But the natural path wasn’t an option so we started looking anew at international adoption. We settled on Ethiopia eventually and a baby boy in particular. I’d like to dispel something you might be thinking right now. This isn’t about “completing” our family with a boy. We never believed that we needed both genders in our household. In fact, we really wrestled about requesting a boy: we don’t know anything about infant boys and toddler boys, in our experience, are practically wild animals. Our girls can be just as crazy, but it seems like with boys it’s more like the norm.

We decided on asking for a boy because we like challenges. (More glibly, we didn’t think we could afford yet another wedding.) Boys and girls are just very different and we had a chance to see what’s going on with the other half. So we took it. As an added bonus, I’ll get to use that line from Cars: “You’re in a heap o’ trouble, boy!” It’s the small things.

We’re now just waiting on a home study so that can submit our dossier to Ethiopia. After it’s translated into Amharic, we get a referral for a specific child. Then Sandi and I travel to Addis Ababa for a week to take our son back to America for good. It’s going to be quite an adventure.