For my final project in digital culture and media, I plan to investigate advertisement as it appears on social media platforms, and the ways in which its role and execution alters in this medium from other, earlier platforms for advertising, such as in print and on television. I came into college knowing I wanted to be a creative writing major, but the media major I added along the way is one I’ve been shaping my familiarity with, and I’ve found which sections of the media I can relate to my other personal interests. The one commonality I’ve found across various forms of media, including film, journalism/news, and digital services, is that people turn to the media for some kind of fulfillment, whether that’s entertainment, unfound information, or just connection to others. In this way, you could even argue that all media is advertising something.
My interest in advertisement began last June when I first started working for a media-buying company focused on political advertisement on television and radio. Although my position functions solely for organizational and data-collecting purposes, I’ve since become more familiar with the overall intentions of our organization and the ways buyers use sociological statistics on media consumers across the country to select individualized, highly specific ad spots for their political clients.
The bottom line, of marketing as a career but also of the billions spent on political advertisements in general, is that marketing works, but it only works when targeting the right consumers (or voters). I am fascinated by the process which takes a section of viewers, say, those who watch The Price is Right at 9 AM every Tuesday in January, and determines who these people are, and what they need or want, in a candidate or otherwise. Yet, advertisements paid for in these dayparts only work when they’re viewed or heard, and this is where advertising for cable, broadcast, and radio fails to do its job.
Now, Facebook has become a hub for news media and other forms of marketing, Instagram alternating its algorithm to have ads directly in the personal news feed, and other sites and apps which have adapted to the growing demands of online services. These are things that I’m learning, and things that I simply notice as a user. It is my hypothesis that social media is learning to manipulate their platforms to maximize profit, maximize social interaction, and increase addictive properties to attract visitors or users for as long as possible and as intimately as possible. It is also my hypothesis that these companies are succeeding, and allowing advertisers a much more effective, secured, and discreet avenue to interject their products/services into people’s lives. This narrowcasting, which applies to all advertisement on all media platforms, works in a uniquely emphatic way for its audience on social media.
This topic fascinates me from another angle, which is that from the non-marketing view of social media and its capabilities. I’ve also worked for a few years on a developing photo-sharing app, and while my other job in Atlanta is text and data-heavy, and relies on numerical worth of specific moments in media, the work I’ve done for the app has been exclusively conceptual and aesthetically driven. From this particular position, I’ve looked at the ways to increase user engagement through stylistic choices, heighten interactivity among users, and create an environment which promotes creative expression. The set up for this app, called Dayflash, mimics that of Instagram and Snapchat, and focuses on encouraging users to engage with one another’s content, and therefore building captivating online, creative relationships. It’s going to be the perfect platform for highly personalized ads to be interjected right into a creative space.
Social media has achieved immense popularity for the comfort and communal uses it provides, but also has successfully simulated real social interactions and illuminated those aspects about social gatherings which we find most attractive. For these reasons, social media has a deeply loyal user base, one which is less expectant of marketing tactics than an audience experiencing a commercial break. These Internet users have constant, intimate access to advertisement, and this is where these products and services are going to be the most accessible.