Online advertising: “I’ve seen the future, and it’s awful.”

Jon Kolko goes on an full-scale assault against online advertising in a post for the Austin Center for Design called Advertising Is The Problem. I am no fan of the advertising model myself, but Jon paints a post-apocolyptically grim picture of what’s to come:

I’ve seen the future, and it’s awful. It’s The Shallows:┬áIn the future, you’ll only see the things that are most likely to get you to buy. Everywhere. All the time. It’s an internet of consumption, based on an algorithmic profile of everything you’ve done, and it’s constantly selling, selling, selling. It’s pervading into real life, through targeted and adaptable advertising on digital billboards, physical computing, mobility solutions, kiosks, digital product placement, taxi flat screens, in-flight entertainment, and on, and on. Ther’s no conversation. It’s not engaging. It’s consumptive. It’s mindless. And it’s happening all around us.

I am (slightly) less bleak on this topic — I think there is enough evidence of content creators selling their goods directly to their readers/listeners/viewers that we’ll start seeing a slow but steady shift away from traditional online advertising. See Chris Wolff’s The Facebook Fallacy for some commentary on that point, as well as a follow-up from Doc Searls called After Facebook fails, where he makes this statement against the traditional advertising model:

The simple fact is that we need to start equipping buyers with their own tools for connecting with sellers, and for engaging in respectful and productive ways. That is, to improve the ability of demand to drive supply, and not to constantly goose up supply to drive demand, and failing 99.x% of the time.

Ironically, Doc is one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, which Jon Kolko uses to set up his own post.

Anyway, I think viewpoints like Jon’s are important — whether we agree with them or not. They force us to think about how we spend our time, and how we can contribute to preventing those negative visions of the future from occurring.