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The Death of Advertising

February 6th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Many members of the new generation of online marketers — bloggers, SEO specialists, social networkers, viral video producers — loudly and frequently proclaim that old-fashioned advertising … derisively referred to as “disruption marketing” … is dead.

Writing in DM News (2/4/08, p. 10), copywriter Dean Rieck disagrees, noting: “The disruption moniker is a pejorative way of referring to selling, and the idea of actively and ethusiastically selling is thousands of years old.”

Among Dean’s observations and conclusions:

* People love and respond to advertising far more than they’ll ever admit.
* The disruption model may be tinkered with, but it will never die.
* Selling means pushing products, and if you aren’t selling, you are out of business.

Do you think Dean has called out all the new media hypsters as the trendy phonies they are?

Or is he a relic of a bygone era, reading to sink, like a dinosaur, into the tar pits of marketing history?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 12:27 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

870 responses about “The Death of Advertising”

  1. Judy Dunn said:

    While online marketing may get the lion’s share of the attention these days, I tend to agree with Rieck. If you want to cast your net wide enough?and reach all your target customers?a good mix of online and offline advertising is necessary. If there is one thing that 17 years of copywriting has taught me, it is that people have different learning modalities and we need to hit them all. Whether you are a B2B or B2C business, you need to visit your customers where they hang out. And, yes, some people even WANt to be “disrupted.”

    Judy Dunn

  2. Angie said:

    Advertising is not dead. Never will be. It bugs me when people make these ridiculous claims when new technologies come along, or a new business type/model comes along and they say “X is going to be out of business because of Y”. Whatever. TV didn’t kill the radio. The Internet isn’t going to kill “traditional” advertising.

  3. Kelly Robbins said:

    I believe the new generation of online marketers you refer to proclaim this loudly just because they want attention.

    As much as these “new marketers” would like to believe they are changing or taking over the way marketing is done, the truth is that millions of buyers are still unfamiliar with social networking, blogging, etc. My mother, who owns two businesses, and my husband, who is a director in a large national company, are two examples of this.

    These marketers are vying for attention, media and controversy like millions of other businesses out there. Evidently it is working for them! Dean is right on in his article.

    Kelly Robbins

  4. Craig Hysell said:

    “Disruptive marketing” dead? Pull your head out of the Internet and look around.

    Online marketing is a NICHE, not the sole proprietor of leads and sales. Email your daily newspaper or your favorite magazine and ask if they only use web-based ads.

    Or, unplug, and go get one yourself. Have a gander at the world outside your PC screen. Get with the program, programmers. It’s a big world and a short life, don’t miss the view.

  5. Robert Rosenthal said:

    “Disruptive” marketing is as dead as an effen doornail. Just kidding, folks. Actually, this seems like an easy call. Direct marketers need to experiment with the new new media, add up the “dollar votes” and stay with what works.

    And Bob, to answer your next question, they’ll simply have to figure out how to track the new stuff. It ain’t rocket science.

  6. Ken said:

    It’s funny because the “new breed” are making such proclamations as they hammer away at their advertised computer on their advertised desk. They’ll sink back in their advertised chair while taking a sip of an advertised drink and munching away on an advertised snack while they survey their clever words. Obviously, I could go on forever…advertising just is, and it always will be.

  7. The Word Wrangler said:

    I agree with Mr. Rieck that traditional marketing/advertising will be with us for a long time to come.

  8. Steve Markowski said:


    If it can be measured and makes economic sense, effective marketing, new or old, will survive.

    Crap is crap, whether digital, analog, print or video, and there’s plenty of that in the new and old schools of marketing.

    Love to all.

    Steve Markowski

    Steve Markowski

  9. Apryl Parcher said:


    It’s the same old story. Every time a new medium comes along, everyone gets all excited and starts yelling that it’s the end of the world as we know it. Print is dead!! Yada, yada, yada…

    A wonderful marketing guru from London, Drayton Bird, who used to work with the great David Ogilvy, recently told me that all the hubbub is pointless. “New mediums don’t destroy old ones…they complement them.”

    It’s still marketing, people–just a different delivery method–and while we need to learn how to use the new, we shouldn’t forget that our mix should always include what has measurably worked in the past. If you’re selling vitamins to “seasoned citizens” over a certain age, then it doesn’t make sense to dump traditional advertisements for new social media. You have to go where your market looks, wherever that is.

    I don’t care how loudly you shout, if you’re megaphone is pointed in the wrong direction, your market isn’t going to hear the message.

  10. Dean Rieck said:

    It seems everyone agrees with me. What a smart group of readers you have here.

    And Ken hinted at the funny part to all this. A lot of the “new wave” run ads in industry magazines, push their services at trade shows, blast e-mail campaigns to prospect lists, and even shoot out tons of direct mail. You can’t get seem to get away from their message about the end of intrusiveness. Is that a hoot or what?

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Dean: That of course is the kicker: all these social media gurus, bloggers, contextual advertising mavens, etc. promote their propoganda with ads, columns, and articles in DM News, Advertising Age, and other print publications!

  12. Peter George said:

    Dean: I have to laugh every time I hear a Constant Contact spot on the radio.

    Is disruptive marketing dead? Not as I see it. I believe marketing is like physics. The laws that govern it do not change; we simply learn new ways to apply it. These new methods do not necessarily replace the older ones. They often add to their effectiveness.

  13. Michel Fortin said:

    I think Dean makes a great point. But I think that it’s not disruption itself that’s contested by new media marketers, but the proliferation of disruptive media — commercial and non-commercial alike — that’s forcing us to find new ways to disrupt.

    In other words, it’s not so much that disruption is dead (and I totally agree with Dean and Bob, in that it’s all about selling anyway), but that the competition for our market’s attention is becoming a much greater challenge.

    The new media “hypesters,” as you labeled in the article, are right — but not in the way they proclaim or think.

    New media is only adding to the disruption.

    It’s not changing it.

    And they are only adding new “disruption” channels anyway — some are so new that their initial success can be misleading. Eventually, they will be no different than standard media. And newer media will label THEM as being disruptive just as well.

    Bottom line, the competition for our market’s attention is indeed becoming a lot fiercer. While that may change the way we disrupt our market and force us to be a lot more creative and compelling with our tactics, it certainly won’t kill it.

    Dean’s observation above is dead-on:

    “The disruption model may be tinkered with, but it will never die.”

    Excellent point.

  14. Philip Downer said:


    I was on the website reading your article ( where you claim “Blogs are, by virtue of being a form of online diary, like diaries: rambling, incoherent, and more suited for private thoughts than public consumption.”

    But here I am, on YOUR blog wondering… What gives?

  15. Taylor said:

    As much we, as consumers, would like to attribute the declining impact of radio, print and TV advertising to our collective intelligence, it was actually the advertisers that did it to themselves. We are all simply desensitized, bordering on numb, because of the bombardment of ads from these mediums. We still notice an effective TV commercial or radio spot as much as we ever did, we’ve simply been trained to dismiss the much larger portion of rhetorical garbage. The solution is not to shift entirely to online marketing techniques. That would only draw the same group of no-talent hacks that made us lose interest in the first place to the Internet. The answer is in good, not only new, marketing.

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