Brazil is set to be a busy place over the next few years with a World Cup and an Olympic Games to host. These grand events not only bring with them some of the greatest sportspeople on the planet, they’re now synonymous with money via an influx of tourism and a strong scent of advertising dollars.
This need to satisfy the interests of big businesses could be interesting in São Paulo (the world’s seventh largest city) where in 2006 the local government enacted Lei Cidade Limpa, (the Clean City Law) which banished all forms of outdoor advertising.
Imagine if one day, those who control the web decided that advertising was no more: leaderboards, skyscrapers and rollovers, all resigned to the Wayback Machine.
You may believe that nobody would ever be in a position to instigate such a madcap plan, but just think of how the EU cookie law was forced upon the web, causing design and build teams all manner of grief.
There’s also an active example in email marketing where all communications have to abide by Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. If people don’t want you to email them, you can’t, and there are heavy penalties (up to £500k) in place if you do.
What if you were only able to advertise to people who had actively welcomed your business into their digital life?
The popularity of Ad Block Plus (boasting over 200m users) and multiple other variations of this browser extension shows there are enough web users out there that would be in favour of an ad-less internet.
Nearly 3,500 of those people were ironically-keen enough to donate $65,000 towards a campaign to create ads promoting an ad-blocking service.
Social sites are responding to this, attempting to find the best way to weave the adverts necessary for their survival into the feeds of their users (who are also very much necessary for their survival).
YouTube has opted to allow users to skip adverts after five seconds, while Facebook is adjusting the EdgeRank algorithm positively or negatively depending on how well your page engages with followers.
In order to attract online attention, any company with any product is required to think about what value they can bring to the web experience of their target audience, be it in the form of something useful, interesting or entertaining, rather than staying firmly in sales-mode.
Heading back to Brazil, a local ad agency welcomed the change as a challenge:
Where businesses are concerned, it turns out some advertisers are actually thankful for the ban, as it’s forced them to reevaluate and improve.
Branding has made a (sort of) return the city’s walls with graffiti sponsored by GE: this is the approach companies would be forced into taking if the option to advertise was no longer available. Create something your audience wants to look at and associate it to your core business.
And that’s what companies with a customer-centric content strategy are doing on the web already.
Special K offers a fine example of this in action. Their customer comms over the years have firmly pressed home the message of slotting the cereal into a healthy eating lifestyle and now online they have a website full of fitness and nutrition pearls of wisdom.
This sits alongside customisable healthy mean plans with their products taking a back seat: the rationale is the better information they can provide to users, the more boxes of cereal they’ll sell on the supermarket shelves.
Advertising is great when it’s done effectively, but don’t rely on it as the only way of connecting with your audience. Try to think a little differently about the landscape you’re in.