Advertising Leaves the Background

I’m reading this article this morning from the United Kingdom and it’s one of those articles that truly makes you sit up and notice because there are huge implications to education and society in general.  It’s not one of those things that you’d find out about in the traditional media because it isn’t positive for traditional media.

We’ve seen a lot of shifts in recent years:

  • move from AM Radio (does anyone remember the Big 8?) to FM Radio to Satellite Radio to Internet Radio;
  • move from 3 or 4 local channels of television to hundreds being made available through cable and satellite or streamed to your computer over the internet;
  • newspapers cutting back to weekend only publications to going out of business altogether.  The ones that stay in business are moving towards becoming an information portal rather than a print medium;
  • entire magazines going out of business or becoming e-magazines.

The interesting note is the move of all of this online.  Even online doesn’t mean the same things as it used to.  Those of us veterans remember beginning browsers and how they opened a whole new world for us.  However, the early versions of Internet Explorer, Mosaic, or Netscape pale in comparison to the potential built into contemporary versions of browsers.  Even the devices that we use to go online are far more sophisticated and diverse than something as mundane as simply a computer.


According to the article, for the first time ever, advertisers are spending more money on internet advertising than television advertising.

Isn’t that a “Whoa”?

On the surface, that’s sending a message about where we’re spending our news, information, and entertainment time.  Less time in front of the television; more time doing it online.  So, it would make sense that the trend for advertising dollars would head in this direction as well.

There was a time when Media Literacy meant a lesson analysing the commercials the day after the Super Bowl.  Now, more than ever, that focus needs to shift as well.

While advertising on television is interesting, it’s still largely a passive activity.  It’s also a time for a washroom break, snack break, let the dog out time, talk to the family, and more.  If you want, advertising can truly be a background activity.

Internet advertising is considerably different.

It can

  • appear when you least expect it;
  • appear before you get to the actual content;
  • actually impact computer performance depending upon what it is;
  • be more attractive than the content that you were originally looking at on a web page;
  • appear in a pop up message that demands your attention first;
  • track your internet activity before and after the advertisement;
  • appear as multiple advertisements on the same page as opposed to sequentially as on television;
  • combine multiple sensory attentions;
  • reach millions outside of your local viewing or listening area;
  • blend in with the actual content of the webpage so that you don’t immediately recognize content from advertising;
  • be an interactive experience that draws you into the advertisement.

Given all this, it only makes sense that advertisers are turning more and more to this form of advertising.  It’s a great field for marketing folks to turn to and web developers to hone their skills.  With proper design, it looks like a really attractive area to spend your advertising dollars.  Advertising pays the bills.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Great advertising pulls you in, wanting more.  Carefully crafted advertising does that so well.  With the power of an internet browser, it reaches new levels.

Amidst all this, you have a potential audience that’s naive about how all of this works.  As advertising leaves the background of television and steps to the forefront of your computer screen, being a educated user is more important than ever.

Are you ready and prepared?  Are your students?

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1 thought on “Advertising Leaves the Background

  1. Great point that Internet advertising should be a focus for media literacy studies. I can recall deconstructing magazine and television ads with my students using a whole set of criteria. Now the genre has changed along with the techniques to enthrall (entrap) the user.


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