The Tragedy of Advertisement

 5 minute read

The discussion of future of Advertising has been one-sided concentrated on the technological development. Humanity is lacking the deeper analysis of advertising impact on informational overload due to[nbsp]digitalization and globalisation. Is this subject too sensitive for the business?

Human attention
as a common-pool resource

As Garett Hardin has stated in his essay[nbsp]half a century ago, humanity is running out of the resources, and there is no one simple solution to satisfy the demand and ensure the supply without harming the world’s environment. As an explanation to Tragedy of Commons, Hardin introduces the pasture (constrained by size) with open access and herdsmen, each maximizing own profit by increasing own cattle. Each extra sheep gives and additional utility. Thus, the uncontrolled growing population of sheeps will cause the overgrazing of the field, and none of the herdsmen has the incentive to restrict own cattle size. As the result of increasing the herd and overconsumption of the pasture, sheeps will have no more grass to eat and, eventually, will die; therefore everyone loses in the long-run. “Freedom of Commons ruins it all” states Hardin.

fishing lure

Similarly, the advertising plays the role of herdsmen in the tragedy of advertising Commons, while the human attention is the pasture. The technology interaction has influenced to the ability to keep attention. According to Statistic Brain, the average human attention span in 2000, when humanity was introduced to the online world, was 12 seconds. 15 years later it has dwindled down to 8 seconds in average. Just to compare, the average attention span of goldfish is 9 seconds.

The worldwide news lines have reduced to 140 Twitter characters and communication shortened to emoji sign. Moreover, Oxford Dictionary named “tears of joy” emoji the ‘word of the year’ 2015. President of Oxford Dictionaries, Casper Grathwohl, comments: “Emoji culture has become so popular that individual characters have developed their own trends and stories.” Advertisers have to fight for customer’s attention generating innovative and catchy advertisements. Another option is to personalize ads like Amazon does.

Adjusting to

The advertising is present in every part of our lives and engages with almost every sensation. There are billboards, radio, TV ad, advertisement online, in social medias, Spotify, and any other area or application you can imagine. The globalization and digitalization have had a large impact on the major information overload changing the consumer behavior. According to the Microsoft attention span research[nbsp]conducted in Spring 2015, the impact of digital lifestyle is already noticeable. Canadians state that it is hard to keep the focus that influences on the work-life balance, as the result, they tend to finish the work in the evenings and on weekends. 67% of respondents claimed that they multi-task, and 3 out of four are multi-screeners.

While it seems that people are adapting to the changes, learning to operate with an abundance of information, we found the way how to filter it as well. The new report[nbsp]from Adobe shows that using apps to block ads has gone mainstream. Globally, usage of ad blockers grew up to 41% from 2014. The study predicts that $21,8 billion in global ad revenue will be blocked this year.


As Hardin has stated in his essay, there is no technological solution for the problem. The Tragedy of Advertising Commons is not an exception. Advertisers will personalise and automate, adjusting customers will develop AdBlockers and other programmes to lower the noise. Every time one actor will create technological innovation, the consumer will produce the one to muffle it. Therefore, the only solution is not increasing the quantity to attract more attention or implementing technological advances in the advertising but concentrating on the quality of content. In the e-connected era, it is important to create the content which can be reused and re-purposed for different devices and channels. Not today, but tomorrow the fridge and cars will need the content. The message has to be multi-channel and it can be reused in the way company cannot control.

Quality over quantity in the approach of Google engine as well. Usage of any HTML shortcuts is punished via google, sending the page further in the search results. At the same time, Google praises the quality of content, attempting to satisfy the quality standards of the user.[nbsp]

Whether we won’t it or not, it is time to accept that as everything in the new century, approach to advertising has to be rethought and reinvented. Dumping the uncontrolled information stream on the head of the population, whether it is news or advertisement, disrupts the perception of it.

Insight Box

Globalisation and digitalisation have created an enormous velocity of information influencing the human brain. It is hard to predict what other changes will it bring besides the dwelling of the attention span. The marketing trend like high-quality content creation presented in a clear and simple way is one of the solutions while the technological innovations will benefit only in the short-run.

#advertising #Consumer Trends #Content management #globalisation #Hardin #Tragedy of Commons
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