Adware based products and services have become very common online. Giants like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are providing services like email, instant messaging, web sites and a lot more to the customers free of cost. The main revenue generator behind these services is advertisements. In any industry where advertisement is the main source of revenue, eyeballs = dollars. With more and more advertisement dollars finding its way on the World Wide Web, the competition between these companies to attract customers is greater than ever before. It will be interesting to see how we can apply some of the strategies of adware offline, i.e. in the World outside of the World Wide Web.
Adware is nothing new, it has been around for a long time now. Newspaper, magazines, television channels etc. are some very good examples of adware. The publishing cost for newspapers and magazines is much more than what is collected from the readers when they purchase their copies. But they are sold cheap. Reason being the same…the main source of revenue for newspapers and magazines is advertisements. By keeping the cost low, the circulation increases, hence making each ad spot more expensive. This concept can be expanded beyond broadcast mediums as well. There are lots of things out there that can be subsidized by thoughtful use of some part of more than a trillion dollar advertising budget Worldwide.
Let’s start with some very basic things that can be funded by advertisements. Construction and maintenance of roadways fall under this category. These contracts can be given to construction companies and they should be allowed to generate revenue, most of it if not all, using billboards on both sides of the road. This will reduce the expenditure of tax money on road development by the government and the same money can be used at better places like education and healthcare. Speaking of healthcare, the distribution of drugs at many places can be subsidized using advertisements. At many places, drug distribution is a very difficult task. The cost of medicine increases exponentially because of the distribution cost. Even the ones which government wants to distribute for free does not reach the people because of the road blocks in distribution (especially in the under-developed and developing countries). This cost can be reduced by setting vending machines for drug distribution in kiosks and funding these kiosks with the help of advertisements. Expanding this concept even further, any kind of commodity distribution can be subsidized in the same way.
I think any product or service can be subsidized to some extent by leveraging the adware concept. To pull a not so common example, let’s talk about collect calls. Collect calls can be made cheaper by making the caller and acceptor listen to a minute of ads before they can talk for 3 minutes. I think such advertisements can have more impact than some generic broadcasted advertisements, because the advertisement is getting complete attention of the customer at most times. The advertisers can make the ad more targeted because they already know the approximate location of the customers from their phone numbers.
Using advertisements to make the products and services cheaper for the end customer is like a win-win proposition. The sellers of the product or service don’t lose anything. They are charging the same amount from the advertiser to make up for the discounts given to the end customer. In fact they end up making more money because due to the low cost, the end customer normally uses more of the product or service. The advertiser meets their goal of publicizing their product. They can use all the normal tactics of effective advertising to make such advertisements give more bang for the buck. And as for the end customer, I think they are the biggest beneficiary. They get the same products and services cheaper by just having to stand some advertisements, which if targeted properly can act more as an informational than a commercial.