"Welcome to the fashion business," said Seth Godin, who founded the direct interactive marketing company Yoyodyne, later acquired by Yahoo.
Godin, one of several speakers at PDF Friday, said "the TV industrial complex" is dead and the new ad model is the fashion/permission complex, which mandates that marketers give people something remarkable, something to aspire to, something they will talk about, and it will catch on. In fact, several recent technology developments seem to indicate that advertising has changed noticeably in a matter of weeks.
For politics, that means the end of the days when candidates would buy ads, get donations, get elected, and get more donations to buy more ads, Godin said.
"That mindset is broken," he said. "The reason it's going to cost a billion dollars to elect a president is because it doesn't work anymore."
Godin said the field of candidates and amount of information and clutter in the marketplace is "huge."
"You can't just keep branding everything and yelling at everybody about it," he said in a quick-tempo, energetic talk. "Medusa was the patron saint of marketers. The idea was if you looked you would turn to stone. If they just put the idea in front of you, you would go away or do what they want."
With the rise of digital media and an abundance of options, consumers can easily tune out what they don't want to hear, he said.
"We're getting good at avoiding spam: e-mail spam, newspaper spam, TV spam, calling- me-at-home-over-dinner spam," Godin said.
Candidates would be better off learning how to gain people's permission before telling their story. The minute an advertiser or campaigner e-mails Godin and treats him like everyone else, he said, he's gone.
"The core of the campaign effort can't be, how do we raise more money to interrupt more people who don't want to talk to us," he said.
Marketers who fail to understand that people don't want to be "targeted" en masse are going to find that most of the people with desirable qualities are "really good at hiding," Godin said. In order to be heard above the noise, candidates should seek permission from people to tell their story, and begin a private, personal conversation that revolves around mutual interest and respect, he said.
That may be getting easier. Microsoft just completed its largest-ever acquisition, a $6 billion purchase of online advertising company aQuantive Inc. Microsoft has also created a new search and advertising group to cope with market-share losses to Google. WPP Group purchased 24/7 Real Media earlier this week. Last month, Google bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion and Yahoo bought out the rest of Right Media in a $680 million deal.
Godin said campaigners, advertisers, and others who want to get a message out should talk to people who want to hear from them. He said they should "explode the Web page," stand for something that the geeks and nerds will talk about.
Instead of modeling ads after a funnel with all the attention at the top and the hope that the money will flow out the bottom, campaigners and advertisers should flip the funnel upside down and hand it to people who will use it as a megaphone, he said.
"As a matter of fact, the world does revolve around me," he said. "Be remarkable. Tell your story to sneezers. They spread word and get permission."