“The Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated” – Advertising (2025)

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Tom Fishburne from Marketoonist http://tomfishburne.com/2013/09/branded-content.html

TiVo, AdBlock, banner blindness, viewability, and bots have all reportedly killed me. Consumers spoke and wanted me to go away. It’s quite sad that having touched millions, I’ve never met anyone that likes me except for people that work on me and, my annual favorites, non-sports fans that attend Super Bowl parties. Yes, that is the one day I’m celebrated. But I can see why people don’t like me. I can annoying when I repeat things often but I just want you to get my message. I need to constantly bombard you with my messages, that might be a bit self serving, that might possibly be skewing reality, that might make some assumptions about you, that might even be intrusive or random. Mostly people didn’t like me because I pop up at most inopportune times: two minutes left to go in a nail biting football game, ten minutes left in the new whodunit, right before we find out who wins The Voice or before a much shared YouTube clip. I could see how consumers, who are the least likely to part with their hard earned dollars, would pay to avoid me. When I moved online, those that loved me most, the brands, started to hate me too. Perhaps I got too aggressive or maybe it was those forged timesheets, or a combination. I am not sure.

And so, ten years ago, reports of my death began to surface. And rightfully so. Things need to change, things need to adapt, things need to evolve and I didn’t do any of that. So of course, people thought I was dead. Even with the advent of the digital age, we simply repurposed the old me, billboards or print, television commercials, or classifieds, into the new me, digital display ads, video pre-rolls, and search ads. Consumers hated the one size fits all nature that was created when there were truly only a few channels for me, television, print, and radio and with more formats and channels,they abhorred me even more.

So before it was too late, I changed my name and started to reinvent myself by removing those old practices that people hated. I stopped being annoying and tried to blend in more. I was still held to strict metrics but they weren’t so focused on sales, they weren’t about cramming a message down someone’s throat, but rather the quality of the engagement. These small changes led brands, agencies, publishers and consumers to like me again. I realized that it wasn’t my brands that people didn’t like, it was actually me! When I told people stories about my brands, they listened. They remembered! They added my stories to part of the sales process: Story->Social->Search->Sale.

In retrospect it was so obvious why my reinvention worked so well. At the time, 2015, consumers were entrenched in the “Now Economy” where they could get products on demand via Amazon Prime, Google Now, Glam Squad, Uber, Task Rabbit, Swifto and more. Flash sales and deep discount group buying were dying. Black Friday sales in 2014 were down 11%. People weren’t responding to my direct response messages, no matter how annoying I tried to be. People will buy things when they want to buy things, when it is convenient for them to buy, with the small device in their pockets. 90% of products that currently exist can be delivered to our doorstep within 24 hours. The old me became irrelevant, but the new me figured out a way to get consumers to remember things better so that when the time came to buy they would remember my brands. I did it through story. And because of my stories we were able to get the consumer’s attention back. The timing was right! Consumers were fed up with deceptive banner advertising and were okay with branded content, brands started to believe in story and content, and agencies stopped trying to cram everything into the same 250 pixels square box.

And here I was. I’d say that this was my natural evolution. From being an outsider, I was now in. I was no longer hated, ignored, or shunned. With my native content transformation, I was now on the inside. I had greater reach and power than ever, because people actually paid attention to me. Brands loved me even more because for once, I was effective and efficient. And most importantly, consumers loved me, because I actually had a relevant message for them. I was no longer a nuisance. I had purpose. I am alive. And all of this because a small little tweak.

And so, the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated, because I did not die, I simply reinvented myself and won’t be looking back. The old me has died, but the new me is thriving more than ever. And you can tell that story for years to come.