Advertising, almost by definition, is about buying the attention of viewers. You pay a vast sum of money to piggyback in a successful magazine or TV show, and you present them with something which gets your message across in a way which is fun, memorable, and/or informative.
The other method of getting the attention of potential customers has been to earn it. You earn atttention by doing the right things, making your products compelling, but also by making your brand compelling too. You also earn it by good customer service, by putting your employees front and centre as experts in the press, and so on.
As we move more and more into an interactive, conversational set of dominating media the opportunities for companies to buy the attention of potential customers through advertising are going to be less and less. With the proliferation of channels, and with the cost of creating compelling ads getting higher and higher, buying attention is becoming less and less effective and more and more expensive.
And, where you can buy attention, you’ll need to ensure that the message you’re presenting to people is so tightly targeted that it’s almost able to earn their attention, simply by being slap bang in the middle of their sets of interests. This is the secret to Google’s success: ads with targeting, small, low-cost, but lots of them.
However, the tools for earning attention have never been more democratically distributed, from blogging to Facebook to whatever the next thing is. Every employee in every company is empowered, at least in theory, to help your company earn attention. Every employee can be an evangelist, can connect directly with customers and help you – with each tiny blog post – to earn the attention which it’s no longer practical to buy.
The question is: Are you prepared to let them do it? Or are you so afraid of your employees that you’ll miss out?