In the past, we’d distinguish between traditional forms of advertising aimed at mass audiences and direct marketing techniques which targeted groups or individuals directly. One of the interesting things about the brave new world of Web 2.0 is that these distinctions are becoming blurred. It’s no longer TV campaigns, billboards and press advertising versus direct mail, e-shots and targeted web content. We can take an olde-worlde discipline such as radio advertising and adapt it to the brave new world.

Take Spotify, for instance. I was discussing the brand at a recent CIM course on marketing communications and making the point that the music is interrupted by pretty bog-standard commercials. One minute, we’re enjoying virtually unlimited 21st-century tunes streamed over the web. The next, we’re being treated to one of those cheesy ads that I grew up listening to in the 1970s on LBC or Capital in London. Unconvincing characters spouting stilted dialogue, dreamed up by the agency B-team.

While it may not be easy to drag the creative work kicking and screaming into late 2009, it is becoming possible to make the advertising more relevant to the listener. In an intriguing twist on the personalised communications we see on social networks, Spotify’s Daniel Ek recently announced that his business would target ads based on customers’ musical tastes.

Apparently it’s possible to tell from my choice of tracks whether I’m more inclined towards BMW or Audi. This sounds intriguing, but as someone who’s in the market for neither car, I’m wondering if the potential of the personalisation is likely to be rather limited. There’s no doubt we’re getting another glimpse of the future. How quickly it will arrive, however, is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, my listening pleasure will still be disrupted by British Gas and some company which checks the memory of my computer in a free online test.

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