"Stop Selling Ads and Do Something Useful" says the man who did the worlds first banner ad

Writer Joe McCambley tells us to stop selling ads and do something useful. As the co-founder of the Wonderfactory and part of the team who created the worlds first banner ad he has some experience in the ever-evolving landscape of online advertising. (*coff* understatement *coff*).

Learning to help instead of sell

"Customer service is the killer app of the Web," Google's Eric Schmidt, then with Sun Microsystems, said way back in 1998. Brands such as Google, Zappos, Amazon, eBay, and others win because they ask "How can I help you?" instead of "What can I sell you?"

Advertisers and their agencies, for the most part, don't know how to be helpful. Thirty-second TV commercials, print ads, radio ads, and direct mail are all forms of content. But nobody's addicted to them, because most ads ask, "What can I sell you?" Thousands of people have saved every issue of National Geographic in their attics. How many have saved every Viagra ad ever created? If you want to use content to build relationships with people, don't turn to an agency — at least not a traditional agency.

The future of advertising lies not in ads as we've known them, but in helping all those people on all those elevators get stuff done, or entertaining them. The companies and people that understand content, and utility, will be the ones to thrive.

Given how many underemployed journalists, directors, designers, and such there are out there, this shouldn't be that hard to do. But most companies dabble. A three-minute YouTube video here and there does not represent a commitment to content.

P.S. we celebrated the banner ads tenth birthday, here as well as its fifteenth birthday. We even celebrated when teh intarwebs turned 21, because you know, party. And with that I just dated the hell out of this site. :P