- We have never seen a single human being activate a QR code, yet we tell our clients that it is a "powerful new marketing tool."
- We cannot remember a single ad we've ever seen on a Facebook page, yet we are blithely ready to accept Facebook as a fabulous ad venue -- worth 100 billion dollars.
- After hearing the same nonsense for the past 5 years, we nod our heads hypnotically when we're told "this will be the year of mobile."
The Internet has had an incalculable effect on worldwide culture. It is a powerful medium of communication, information, and entertainment. It has affected so many areas of contemporary life that it is difficult for us to re-imagine 15 short years ago when it was just an interesting novelty. But it's been a lousy ad medium.
If there is one lesson we should have learned from the Internet's first 15 years it is this: the astounding marketing power of television.
Until now, we couldn't truly appreciate the advertising potency of television because we had nothing to compare it to. Now we do.
Although the web's cultural impact may be equal to that of television (I'll leave that to the sociologists to argue over) its marketing impact isn't even close.
Certainly there have been a few huge web entities that have transformed categories of marketing. Google has essentially replaced the yellow pages. iTunes has redefined the music industry. Amazon has had an enormous effect on the publishing industry and certain other retail activities.
Yet despite all the hype, most levelheaded marketers are struggling mightily to convince themselves that the web is a worthwhile advertising medium.
After 15 years as a mainstream consumer medium, television had been instrumental in creating hundreds of consumer-facing brands in dozens of categories.
But after 15 years of web advertising, I can't come up with a single major consumer-facing non-web-native brand that online advertising has been responsible for building. Not one major brand of beer, or shampoo, or cereal, or soda, or tires, or...
We're not even sure what web advertising is. Is it display ads? Or YouTube videos? Or Google listings? Or emails? Or Tweets? Or "content?" Is it whatever next week's emperor's-new-podcast turns out to be? Or is it just lemmings throwing a lot of different stuff at the medium and hoping something sticks? Because if it is, the only thing sticking right now is Google.
Our online creatives still can't figure out how to motivate a click. Our online media gurus spend half their time torturing the numbers to make them appear palatable.
Fifteen years after advertisers first jumped onto the web, the medium still hasn't convinced me of its purported magic. And if the Facebook face plant is any indication, I am not alone.
Meanwhile, television has proven to be amazingly resilient. Despite the web's popularity, TV viewership is higher than ever. Ad skipping has not been the disaster all the marketing geniuses said it would be. 98% of all video is still viewed on a television.
It is time for the advertising and marketing industries to call a time out, take a deep breath, turn off the online hype machine, and take a look around.
We knew TV was a powerful advertising medium, but it's taken the web to teach us just how powerful it really is.