What if advertising were destination, not distraction?

“When someone comes to me with an idea, I ask them if it is useful. And if it is not useful, it better be entertaining. And if it is not useful and it’s not entertaining, there’s only one basket left and that’s useless.” – Manoj Bhargava

Continuing on the theme from yesterday (and my budding adoration of Manoj Bhargava), I’ve spent the last day and a half pondering the quote above. It’s so simple, so clear – the kind of thinking we can all use no matter what we do, where we work or what kind of work we aspire toward.

Is it useful? Is it entertaining? If not, back to the drawing board.

Having spent a good amount of time in the world of marketing and advertising, this quote should be a siren shot across the bow. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be, back when Pets.com had a sock puppet and eTrade put a twenty-five second video of a monkey dancing before a logo in the Super Bowl.

Still, for most of us, advertising is more of a distraction than something to look forward to. Pop-ups, native placements, interruptions. We are stalked and hunted like prey. As users – I hate the word ‘consumers’ – we are the heels that advertising’s little dogs nip at; it becomes annoying.

But does annoying necessarily mean that advertising breaks Manoj Bhargava’s two-stage litmus test?

Not at all. Advertising – in all forms – is useful, especially for the companies that are advertising and it is very useful – in some instances – to the audience that hears/reads/sees it. We’ve all seen advertising that’s entertaining. Hell, some of my favorite stories have been told in advertisements.

So why does advertising sometimes make my skin crawl? It’s all about context.

I have a need for advertising in my life – for its usefulness and its entertainment value. But what if I could go to advertising instead of advertising stalking me? What if there were a destination for the most creative, useful, entertaining ads? What if there were a Netflix for advertising that allowed me to browse by theme and length, format, execution type and brand?

Think about the Yellow Pages, but with really good, excellent content; where browsing the content, sharing it, engaging in it were purposeful acts by the users.

I’m sure there are sites out there that do this – and I’m interested in them if you can share – but I don’t just mean an entertaining property. I mean – what if that’s just the way things were? Advertising as a digital mall. Advertising is a destination instead of a distraction. What would that do to the media? To the industry? To the world?

We are surrounded by messages – ads, marketing, native placements. They are meant to interrupt us, to get our attention, to steal precious moments of focus from our every day lives. We learn to ignore them. We learn to distrust them. We learn to avoid them.

We don’t give them the opportunity to be useful or entertaining. To do so, requires choice and purpose, context and a new way of seeking.

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