The following is a proposition to flip the advertising industry on its head. I believe that by setting up an infrastructure that simply shifts the timing of money transfer, one can improve the advertising experience for all parties involved.
As a consumer, I understand that the ads I watch help subsidize the content I enjoy. I think most of us hate blaring advertisements but appreciate the subsequent free websites, podcasts, and videos. Though, this progression doesn’t frame the entire story. Watching advertisements doesn’t fund our ‘free’ media. Instead, the small percentage of consumers who purchase the advertised item subsidize our media.
Is it possible to directly subsidize media through the purchasing of products, and thus cut out the nagging middle-man we call advertising? I say ‘yes’, provided we can set up the proper infrastructure.
Here is a rough outline of a system that benefits Consumers, Media Producers, and Consumer Product Companies while getting rid of advertising. For examples sake, lets chat about a company, Dan’s Pans. For many reasons (branding, outreach, etc.) Dan’s Pans plaster ads everywhere; youTube, online news, podcasts, and more.
In this new system, when I buy a pot from Dan’s Pans, I get a credit of media-tokens that I can later use to obtain ad free media. Then, when I use these tokens to listen to my ad free podcast, a few pennies get transferred from Dan’s Pans to the podcast creator. Simple as that.
In theory, every purchase a consumer makes can accrue them more media tokens.
This system works in the interest of all involved parties: the Customer, the Media Creator, the Consumer Product Company, and the Ad Reshuffle Company.
First, lets look at the Customer. The customer loves this program because they get ad free content. In fact, they get ad free content with out having to change their habits at all (assuming token accruing is simple, and token spending is simple. Big assumptions). The customer gets to support their favorite media creators through their existing purchases instead of watching ads. There is a question of privacy, which I’ll go into later.
Second, lets look at the media creator. The media creator loves this program. The only reason the media creator couples ads with content is to create revenue. As soon as we create an ad-less revenue stream, media creators will jump on board. (I bet a lot of content creators hate subjecting their customers to ads.)
Third, consumer product companies. Currently, consumer product companies spend a sizable chunk of their revenue on sales and marketing (how big of a chunk? Needs research). This advertising reshuffle will not completely change this. Instead, this infrastructure provides these companies two things. First and less important, it allows companies to not terrorize current customers (‘I already bought Dan’s Pans, why do they keep showing me advertisements?’). Second, by joining the Ad Reshuffle, these companies get a window into incredibly useful data. Ad Reshuffle knows which media outlets the Consumer Product Company’s current customers enjoy. For example, people who buy Dan’s Pans enjoy Podcast ‘A’, TV Show ‘B’, and youTube Channel ‘C”. Even at a crazy adoption rate, ‘Ad Reshuffle’ will only be used by 5% of a population, allowing a company to use this key information to poignantly advertise to the other 95%.
Fourth, Ad Reshuffle, itself. This company is not easy to build, but it has clear revenue streams and is highly scalable. First, it makes money by skimming a bit as ‘media tokens’ get transferred from Consumer Product Company to Content Creator. Second, it gets revenue by selling that Product-Media connection data. Third, it can potentially sell ‘media tokens’ to customers (a customer may get 75% of his/her content ad-free from normal purchases, but wants to augment that with direct purchase media-tokens).
I see two glaring issues with this idea/company; data privacy, and starting on a small scale.
Data Privacy. Often, people hate to give up personal information for large companies to profit. A large part of Ad Reshuffle is based on gleaning user data. However, user data is typically used in order to more acutely annoy the customers, as can be seen in targeted ads. The mission statement of Ad Reshuffle is to please customers by removing ads entirely. Perhaps this attempted benevolence can be conveyed to the customer. Additionally, because there is no attempt to directly target a specific customer with ads, the Product-Media data can be fully anonymized, removing all information of a specific user.
Scaling and starting small. For a customer to enjoy this service, it needs to be easy to accrue media-tokens, and easy to use them to get ad-free media. If tokens are obtained by purchasing typical items, it could be difficult to get enough Consumer Product Company partnerships to make this feasible. Additionally, no one would want to use this service if they couldn’t spend media-tokens on their favorite content. So, getting the proper media library could be difficult.
Concluding thoughts: As a guy who shies away from invasive technologies and social media, I would love to have Ad Reshuffle. I hate listening and watching ads, but I want to support the Content Creators who I follow. In a store, I could see myself buying the chocolate bar that comes with media-tokens versus the one without.
What does a small scale prototype look like? How can we test this idea? Is this something the world wants?
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