Browser emptor

The ad is an established art, but now it has a new venue

The ad is an established art, but now it has a new venue

Jason Smith


Admen are an ancient type. Since sellers and buyers started dealing in goods and services, there have been experts meddling in the middle of that exchange, talking up the merits of what’s on offer. With all those talkers in the marketplace, the ancient Romans coined a term: caveat emptor.

Snake-oil salesmen aside, selling in the modern era is a very fine art indeed. Designers of advertising are leading arbiters of taste, trendsetters and artistic savants. They are creating the world of tomorrow through their choices of imagery, humour, colour, pattern, music, fashion and style. Totally contemporary, their work is the freshest of the fresh, newly minted every time. The paradox, when all is said and done, is that despite all the best new tricks, the messages haven’t really changed—look more beautiful, get there faster and in more comfort, be happier. It’s unlikely we’ll run out of Unique Selling Propositions any time soon.

We’re in the middle of a technological revolution and, in case you missed it, advertisers have started jumping on the bandwagon. Real changes are occurring with the emergence of new, interactive media. The Internet and handheld devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, iPods and Kindles are opening whole new worlds to salesmen. Such quantum leaps for marketing signal the largest change since the emergence of television nearly 50 years ago.

But wait, there’s more. The transformation goes right to the edges of cyberspace, where ad agencies themselves are peddling in the virtual world Second Life, helping sellers to sell. Way out there, it may be a case of caveat venditor—seller beware—but that’s another story.

Magazine layout

Sources: NZ Advertising Standards Authority, Australia AdNews. Idealog infographic: Su Yin Khoo

Back to reality and the numbers of now: the charts below show the rapid emergence of interactive advertising and the trend towards marketing to individuals rather than crowds via mass media. The interactive advertising spend in New Zealand in 2007 was $135 million. By contrast, Australia’s was A$1.34 billion (about NZ$1.6 billion). Advertising spend is a canary to show the health of the economy, and our interactive media marketing is taking flight.

The important thing to remember is that the overall spend in advertising is likely to increase only slowly, relative to the growth of the overall economy. The proportional shift within that, showing which media gets the spin and spend, will be the one to watch. Don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).