Why Social Media is working so well. And Old Advertising isn’t.

How many tweets do you see on the regular condemning the wilting old-school advertising and praising the blooming social media?
A lot right? All those social media bloggers convincing you, reason after reason, why social media is so useful.

Magazine ads, TV ads, billboards are supposedly close to the endangered list. Social Media, Blogs, Adwords is the new “fittest” to survive.

Bob Garfield’s book Can’t Buy Me Like offers an explanation. Perhaps people aren’t reacting to old school advertising anymore because it’s being pushed in their face. And anything that is pushy does not work. After all, why should I want to see a car ad if I don’t need any more cars?
Social Media on the other hand is a choice. Users choose which pages they visit and who they follow. They want to see the ads that they want to see.

Could There Be Another Explanation?

Before the days of social media, old school advertising was the only kind of advertising. Billboards, magazines, posters, salesmen.
And it worked. Better than it does today – is what they claim.
This means that wanted and unwanted messages were unanimously pushed into people’s faces “back in the day” as well. But it worked.
Conclusion: “unwanted advertising” really isn’t the issue. It worked.


New Explanation.

New forms of advertising are invented year after year. New mediums for advertising. New technology for advertising. New psychological techniques of getting attentions and reactions.
But could it be that an advertising platform has a certain kind of capacity.

Driving through corn on a freeway you see a billboard. It’s a single billboard that towers above all the corn. How much of your attention does it get? 100% How much of your brain is immediately deligated to pondering the reasons for it being there, and perhaps it’s message? Well, a significant portion anyways. (A percentage value would not help to drive my point, since we only use less than 10% of our brain).
ImageNow you are driving through another cornfield and you see four billboards towering above the corn. Interesting you say, and start skimming them in the sequence of your choice. 1, then 3, then 4 then 2.
You now find yourself driving through 10 billboards. You only read 3.
Now extrapolate.
How many billboards would it take for you to completely ignore all of them. Simply because there are too many. None stand out.

New types of advertising are born every year. And every year old forms of advertising fill up, because they are overused and get crowded.
We become immune to their uniqueness. And if not completely immune, we become very selective about which ones we really want to give our attention.

Think of it as a flood entering the hidden depths of an anthill.
As water invades an anthill, it first floods the top spaces first. Then as the water “discovers” new passage ways to drain down to, it fills up the deeper spaces. Only once it has flooded the first tier does it go on to flood the next tier.
Watch a cool illustration of the phenomenon in This Video (AnthillArt.com)

ImageJust like the anthill gets flooded, the same way advertising gets worn out.
It’s a beautiful thing.