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What is an ad?

June 1, 2010

Ask this question 10 years ago, and the answers would have been expected. An ad is in a newspaper, on TV, on a billboard or maybe if you asked a copywriter, they might say something on the radio.

Some might have said “banner ad“, seeing as how the word is right there in the answer, but none would have said website.

A website isn’t an ad.

Even though it obviously is.

And no one would have said Twitter or Facebook, or Google ad words, since those things weren’t around 10 years ago. No one would have said an app, since apps weren’t around.  (Side note: Google is much like an app on the internet. If you thought of your website as an app, would it change the approach?)

So here we are. It’s 2010, and the answer to the question, what is an ad could be fundamentally different. Which is an issue for ad agencies. And lest PR Agencies think they are off the hook, the whole model of PR is being turned on its head. When brands are asked to create their own news, things are changing just as rapidly.

Is it all PR? Is it all advertising? Is it all marketing?

I can think of ads that stand out. Recent ones even. So the idea of TV advertising isn’t dead (nor should it be, TV is one of the best mediums for creating emotional attachments to brands).

But clearly, something is going on. This article from ad age talks about an interactive awards show where the awards aren’t for ads:

“An initiative that turned an entire city into a Monopoly game. A Nigerian e-mail scam that actually rewarded the one sucker who gave his bank-account details. A gay-pride app calculating the heterosexuality of anyone you Googled.”

All marketing has, on some levels, wanted to be ‘interactive’. The web isn’t the only place to have this interactivity, it can happen almost anywhere with mobile, and in-store (the moment of truth, right before someone picks up the product).

So what is an ad? Can you define it? Does it even matter anymore, or is this a case of mental gymnastics that we don’t even have to do?

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