- Editorial Introduction
In this issue of Advertising & Society Quarterly, many questions were posed to explore the broad phenomenon of "digital advertising": Has a new era in advertising emerged as media have become increasingly digital? What parallels, if any, can be made between advertising's current and past adjustments to media and technological change? What new tactics have emerged among advertisers to deal with consumers' increasing avoidance of advertisements in digital spaces? How are consumers and governments responding and adapting to these new tactics? Where do social media fit into advertising today?
To start off answering these questions, the journal went to the past through a "Reprint Retrospective" of excerpts from Susan Smulyan's 1994 book Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920-1934. As Smulyan discusses in a recorded interview, her book reveals that many debates and worries about advertising's place in radio (a new media technology in the 1920s and 1930s) are not necessarily unlike what is seen today with digital media. Today's technologies are certainly novel, but debates about what roles advertising should play are not necessarily new compared to the past.
Kristin Comeforo's original article on corporate social responsibility in the case of Redbull's 2013 "Energize Equality" social media post in support of same-sex marriage helps sort out the ways in which brands engage consumers digitally. Comeforo considers brands' increasing engagement with cultural, political, and social issues through their advertising content, as well as the ways in which consumers can now easily share their feelings and readings of ads through interactive social media tools.
In Part II of the Roundtable on Digital Advertising, participants cover how technologies have caused the advertising industry to adjust its strategies many times throughout history, but all agreed that caution should be heeded in making definitive claims on what will come for advertising's futures, because the industry and the academy are still sorting out how user data, algorithms, and automation will impact business and everyday life.
In an interview, Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, describes what it means for brands, agencies, consumers, and society to be "digitally led." She also explains how she became a leader in digital advertising and marketing, the importance of good storytelling in digital spaces, the significance of diversity in the workplace, and the need for increased literacy in a media- and advertising-saturated world.
In this issue's "Author Meets Critics" conversation with Mara Einstein about her book Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell, participants focus on definitions of "black ops advertising," such as content marketing and native advertising. These strategies present questions about consumers' ability to distinguish advertising from non-advertising content and the limits of consumer agency in an environment with evolving digital advertising regulations. In the end, the participants agreed on the public's need for increased media and advertising literacy, as well as the industry's responsibility to reflect on the tactics and data that are being used as digital media and technologies take an increasing hold on everyday life.
Finally, to help sort out where social media fit into the mix of digital advertising, Cynthia B. Meyers provides an in-depth lesson plan on social media influencers and how to teach digital advertising media literacy. Moreover, a supplemental ADText unit on "Social Media and Advertising" details what social media are, as well as how and why they are essential to advertisers' digital strategies today.
Perhaps there are even more questions posed than answered about digital advertising in this issue of Advertising & Society Quarterly. However, the journal nonetheless takes continued important steps in piecing out how recent digital innovations fit into advertising's relationships to society, culture, history, and the economy.
June 13, 2017