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Bright Green Marketing Practices
Craig Neilson, 21 Apr 08
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It's nothing new that the relationship between marketers and their potential customers can be a bit strained at times.

There's probably been at least a few times in your life that you've felt annoyed about the way advertisers are approaching you. If you live in western society this probably happens on a regular basis.

But that doesn't help anyone. The role of a marketer is to hook people up with stuff they want - stuff that people will feel, at least at the time of purchase, will improve their lives.

Marketing can be quite important as a catalyst for change in general. It can swing marketplaces to a better product, bring awareness of new stuff, change attitudes and brand identities. It can decide elections and create entire industries.

But the marketing industry, and in that field I include the advertising industry, is unsustainable in its present form. It's going to change somehow and that's up to us.

It's been possible for some time now to remove ads entirely from your life. The right combination of AdBlocker, PVR's, application hacking and a conscious decision to look away will do the trick nicely. If advertising annoys you, I encourage you heartily to opt out. Advertisers need to learn!

Force-feeding "consumers" with massive ad-booking spends is the holy grail of current marketing practices. Adspot buyers work frantically on ad spot combinations that will return them the most "TARPs" (Target Audience Rating Points). The idea is that the more TARPs you get, the better your campaign went. The measurement system is weighted grossly in the salesman's favor, with ads shown while television sets are on mute or their owners are out of the room still being counted as successful impressions. If you watch half a program (and channel-surf during ads), that counts as watching it. The measurement system doesn't account for people who skip ads.

But if people are able to opt out, the whole model of mass advertising is defunct. Given the choice, most people, especially young people, would probably do without advertising. That's the big problem: people hate it. There's a willingness to shut it out and shut it down.

Coupled with changing attitudes - "why should I listen to you?" - the marketing industry finds itself in big trouble with its millions of new bosses.

So if the future is to have marketing, it won't look like this.


As with many other required social changes, this one presents a huge opportunity to the market. It's time for something to happen here: either marketing changes its tune, or the public decides against having an organised marketing industry.

The bright green future could have a cutting-edge marketing industry that people actually appreciate.

Forget about broadcast or the possibility that there'll be plenty of potential for ambient ads on all those walkable streets - although these placements will exist. For now, consider what might be responsible use of targeting to create offers you are interested in - and how you might respond if you were only presented those offers at times that wouldn't annoy you.

It's possible with today's technology, and online advertising giants like Google are beginning to deliver on detailed targeting plans. But it takes a shift in thinking from both parties to work --
1. A shift from marketers to think about what kind of world they are creating
2. A shift in consumers to allow marketers back in and trust them with their personal details.

What kind of world are we creating?

This is the question the marketing industry must ask itself in two regards -
In the meta sense, what kind of world are we creating for customers to live in?
In a smaller sense, under what conditions are our customers experiencing the brand? Is it a positive environment? Do we have some part in enabling that world, and are we welcome there?

What's required here is that marketers begin to care about how their campaigns are received - which isn't necessarily reflected as short-team click-throughs or return on investment. They need to shun ad spots that are annoying (especially television, radio and ambient), and favour polite online channels that can target messages appropriately.

This is where you come in
Marketers need to talk to people that care, and stop talking to those that don't. They'll do a better job of this if people are willing to tell them who they are.

If you're on an online social network or two, you're probably already publishing quite a lot of information about yourself to the world. Though it may not be your first choice of audience, marketers would be welcome to collect this information about you so they can exclude you from anything that's likely to be irrelevant. People need to be ok with this.

If you can identify people on a website or other advertising-enabled application, you could build a stalker to go and find out information about potential customers. The more advertisers know about you and me, the more they might realise that most of what they tell us is pretty dull. Consider for a moment how cool it would be if marketers only approached you about interesting stuff. There's no reason not to go there.

In the case of Google, who collect untold terabytes of data about their customers (and have nearly unrivalled access to more), it's shocking that ads aren't already better targeted.

The primary data is where you're from. But up for grabs is also your age, your occupation, gender, purchasing history, exactly where you live (geo-targeting, anyone?), what you're blogging about, what other links you've clicked on; a wealth of information constantly changing and growing. Some social networks even ask what you're doing "right now". If I say I feel like a pizza, why aren't I shown pizza ads?


It's a familiar message in the emergence of the bright green world. Adapt or become irrelevant.

The tools to create a bright green marketing industry are here.

Image: Cheers flickr/plasticmind!

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I am all for creating ways to make marketing messages more relevant, personalized and anticipated, but the potential privacy issues are disturbing...

Posted by: Clayton on 22 Apr 08

Agreed Craig.
No one connects with the world like marketers do, no one has more touchpoints with more people and therefore, one could argue, no one has more responsibility for making a positive difference than marketers. If we are talking about marketing then Kevin Roberts' words may be fitting. He says:

"people are 80% emotion, 20% reason. Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to action. We need fewer, fewer conclusions and more action. We'll have to attract the heart as well as the head so people want to make the choices that make a difference. This is the most important challenge of our time"

Indeed, the future (now) WILL have marketing and it WILL be different. But i am not sure that you will ever get "a shift from marketers to think about what kind of world they are creating" because most marketers only care selling more stuff. And marketers simply react to what their consumers are telling them, in order to sell more stuff. That is what Kevin is getting at - he sees the writing on the wall in terms of the growing consumer sentiment and he encourages marketers to react. The way to do that, he suggests is to move from ATTENTION marketing; which interupts and informs, is packaged for the masses and repeated and repeated until a % ROI is gained, and to ATTRACTION marketing; which engages and inspires, is interactive, creates a powerful connection and appeals to consumers' values. You are right, marketers do want to talk to people who care - but they can't interupt them or talk TO them, they need to inspire consumers to engage.

Of course with consumer cynicism growing everyday, the key to this is having a product that consumers value to start with!

Posted by: Ben on 23 Apr 08



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