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Why the end of filters matters to advertisers

September 24, 2008

At Web 2.0 Expo, Clay Shirky talked about filters. He basically said that we don’t actually suffer from information overload, but from a breakdown of filters.

The word filter can mean many things. It can mean the literal SPAM filter that lets in e-mails about growing “penis size”, or it can mean subtle filters like newer Twitter users automatically following someone who follows them (and not being able to filter out marketers who simply follow many people)

Clay Shirky

Image via Wikipedia

On the active side, it can mean building up an RSS feed reader, where a user filters the content they want. The RSS feed of the front page from the New York Times, the entertainment Feed of the LA Times, the opinion feed of the Guardian UK, and the gossip feed of the Superficial, all pulled into one “Newspaper” that is self-filtered. IE, it wasn’t put together by someone who’s job it is to appeal to the masses, it was put together by a person who only wants what they want.

That’s what I mean when I say filters. Some are obvious, like the RSS feed example. Some are less obvious, like the Twitter follow. But all are challenging our notion of what the word filter means.

And I think, there’s an opportunity for marketers. The manner of advertising using filtered content has worked for a long time now. And it was profitable because there were only a few filtered entities that could reach the masses. To break through the channel changer, marketers worked on being edgy, funny, engaging. But it was pretty damned easy to tell an ad from content.

Now though, the rules have changed. YouTube can reach a critical mass. Yahoo throws paid results in with real results. Our marketing filters are being tested (like in the case of Twitter follows) in ways we aren’t even sure of.

Fact is, people aren’t sure of their filters right now. I don’t mean this to sound like we should “get them when their guard is down.” I mean that if you’re entertaining, and engaging, you can create a strong brand impression with people because their marketing filters aren’t keeping up with the tools.

As social media enters the marketing toolbox, marketers can be entertainers in some way again. Instead of being content interrupters, we can be content creators.That’s what Facebook Applications are. That’s what a blog from a character can be.

Content brought to us by marketers. As the filters we’ve come to rely on in marketing disappear, there will be two battles fought. One will be for trying to buy space on the limited filter networks. In other words, a page in the NY times will be more expensive because there is no longer easy ways to get the GRP’s. A 30-second interruptive spot on NBC will be more expensive for the same reason.

The other option? Bypass the old way, and create the content. Engage with people.

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