To make extra cash, I distributed advertising fliers when I was in school. It was not as lucrative as doing the paper route here, believe me. Pennies to a flier and I had to put it in the mail boxes. In Italy they are locked inside condominiums and apartment buildings.
On my bike, sometimes in the cold rain, I would carry pounds of paper from block to block. Then I would need to park and lock the bike, ring a bell to ask someone to open the door to the building and then go in and insert in each mail box.
Think about the coupon booklets and supermarket fliers we get here in our mail boxes once a week -- except for the mail service there was so poor and expensive (compared to cheap labor like me), that we did it manually.
Many years later, they fitted plastic or metal boxes outside buildings so that the fliers could be inserted there -- no doubt building security became a concern on top of people becoming annoyed at having their mail box filled with fliers. I recently passed a building on my way from center city Modena and saw this sign posted. What it says is: "Publicity is not wanted here". What it means is: no junk in my mail box. Where can I find the sign to post on my email box?
Things have changed a great deal since the beginnings of fliers and publicity. Yet, we insist on doing things just the same. In The Big Switch, which I reviewed recently, Nicholas Carr talks about the problem of spam. By the end of 2006, an estimated 94 percent of all emails sent over the Internet were spam, up from 38 percent. That's when Gates made his prediction that spam would be solved at the World Economic Forum in Davos just two short years earlier. One spam-tracking firm reported that on any given day as many as 85 billion spam messages are being sent.
Anywhere from ink and toner sales, to health coverage, offers to time shares and to meet the person of your dreams, online pharmacy deals, investment advice, etc. The cost/opportunity ratio must still clearly be in favor of doing it, someone benefits, or it would not be growing at such a rate. This kind of publicity not wanted here, we say. Is there a place for advertising? I think there is, but it must be reinvented.
It's like with everything else. Lazy ends up dominating the marketplace. Lazy ends up clogging mail boxes, phone lines, job applicant stacks. Lazy is the scraping of good content online. Lazy is all the noise that clutters your signal. What's the opposite of lazy? Doing the work. Learning about your audience, responding to what they find valuable, being responsive as your customers define it.