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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting spammers to pay up... the first stage in consumers tackling the marketing industry

Good to see this Scotsman getting an unsolicited email advertiser to pay up, albeit in an out of court settlement.

I still reckon there will be a longterm trend whereby advertisers will - in some circumstances - need to pay consumers to watch/see their marketing.

"You want to know if I've got a pension or not, and then advertise a new/alternative one to me? Pay me £50 first and I'll let you. I might even give you a refund if I decide you're not wasting my time"

Put simply, marketing and advertising budgets are too large to simply be spent on ad agencies and media channels. Part of that budget should go directly to the consumers expected to be subjected to the advertising, who are expected to spend their time viewing/thinking/filtering through it.

Now obviously there will be exceptions - if I want to listen to free-to-air FM radio, for example, I recognise that it's advertising-funded, and in the first phase at least, I should have to accept I need to listen to ads if I want to hear the music. Same deal with Google searches - the big G provides me a useful service for free, so I'm prepared to put up with relatively unobtrusive ads.

But email spam, direct post junkmail, telephone cold-calls, mobile idle-screen on an unsubsidised phone - or even street-side advertising hoardings? No. You're taking my time, stealing parts of my field of eyesight or hearing that could be useful occupied by other more valuable things, even if it's just for a brief time. You should pay me by the second, or by metrics like (% field of vision X time exposed)

In the ultimate phase, I should even be able to monetise Google ads and the like, if I'm a "valuable enough" user. If I've bought 3 things, provably, n the past week after seeing a advert in a Google sidebar, I've got a "reputation", and should be rewarded accordingly.

Clearly, the mechanisms for this will be fiendishly complex. But the first part is for consumers to make sure they are not "owned" by any particular service provider. In particular, they should be wary of 3rd-party "identity services" that are looking to greedily monetise the advertising potential just for themselves. Be wary of the non-financial implications of bundling or consumer loyalty schemes... there's no such thing as a free lunch, so consumers should be certain they "negotiate" the most favourable terms for their information and loyalty.

So, an open challenge to innovators - don't assume we have to always be "advertised at" for free. Develop cool ID and profiling software we can use for charging back to advertisers, personal billing systems, smartphone anti-advert filtering clients, and maybe even intelligent spectacles that spot & block out ads in your field of vision that are trying to freeload. The global marketing industry must be worth a trillion dollars or more. Claim your share.

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