You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink– Unless the horse is already thirsty anyway, and then he’ll probably mosey on over to the ambiguous water source all on his own, and you won’t have to do a thing.
This is the basic idea behind the concepts of push advertising and pull advertising.
Let’s start off with the bad guy: push advertising is the kind of advertising you hate. It’s the stuff that, by the network’s financial necessity, interrupts your television show, or precedes your Youtube video, or fills up 60% of your magazine. Push advertising is the stuff you don’t go looking for, but that instead is forced into your attention or consciousness because it’s interspersed among the media source that you’re taking in. It’s the frequent ads between songs on Spotify or Pandora, or the jingles on the radio. Generally, push advertising is a part of broadcast media, with the goal in mind being to get it in front of as many people as possible as frequently as possible. This shotgun method to advertising has been the norm for decades, essentially ever since the television was invented.
Enter the good guy: pull advertising is the stuff that goes viral. It’s things like the Ok Go music videos, or the Virgin America Safety PSA, or the corporately-endorsed publicity stunts that get twenty-million views on Youtube. These are the kinds of commercials that you would happily watch, because to see them, you actually have to go looking for them. They get spread around by word of mouth and internet posting. They get shared at (admittedly slow) parties, or become viral memes. They’re usually internet-based, and they’re transforming the advertising industry.
If pull advertising becomes a norm, it will blow push (or broadcast) advertising away completely. Spastically shotgunning an ad to everyone so many times that they start to hate it cannot compare to creating a work of art or well-produced piece of entertainment that is now attached to your brand. Advertising could become less a business of slipping your ad in as many times as you can, and more a business of designing the best project to expose your company brand to the world.
What advertising have you been pulled to recently? Have you willingly watched anything that was meant to be an ad?