DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

To Kathy Franz, Guest Curator at the NMAH:


Americans today are spending more and more time in the “digital” world, and the boundaries of this space are constantly expanding. When presenting a comprehensive history of American advertising, the growing market of digital advertising simply cannot be ignored.


However, the definition of digital advertising remains vague and unclear, and digital platforms are continually expanding. Internet advertising has developed over time much like the advertising industry as a whole.[1] What started as a new medium to simply reintroduce passive advertising has evolved into an interactive landscape of advertising as entertainment and marketing campaigns as massive social structures.[2] Digital advertising is now all encompassing, including the Internet in general, social networking websites, smartphone applications, and even database-marketing in television.


A key component of digital advertising is the niche. With new technology, advertisers can study the buying characteristics of a certain group and target specific advertisements at the group most likely to buy a certain product.[3] Consumers are also becoming more engaged in the process, as many digital advertisements now grant them a “choice” in their “ad experience.” The choices they make are recorded and help advertisers further identify the interests of a certain consumer.


These niches and personalized advertising have to be seriously considered when collecting for a museum exhibit on digital advertising. The Internet advertisements I encounter on a day-to-day basis are probably very different from yours, as we have different purchasing habits and are thus classified into different niches. To achieve a truly representative collection, the museum should ask people form all different niches to share personalized advertisements. To collect the advertisements, members of various niches should visit various different types of websites and save the advertising results that appear on each website. The information would be best represented as a click-through computer application, as it would be most similar to the actual experience of the consumer that originally views the advertisements.


Digital marketing is more than just Internet advertisements, though. Every brand has its own website, and most maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts as well. These websites and social networks are avenues to further the relationship between brand and consumer. Tweets and Facebook posts are certainly advertisements, as are new unique digital marketing campaigns that create their own social networks. Digital Advertising agency R/GA created an entire social network of runners, Nike+, through an advertising campaign for Nike. Runners could track their routes, see their speed and times, and share this information with others all from a microchip in their shoe.[4] These extensive campaigns are becoming more and more common, and should be included in the exhibit. Digital advertising agency websites often have informational videos explaining the details of each campaign they have created, which could be a worthwhile addition to the exhibit.


These campaigns also extend to smartphone usage and television personalization. Mobile apps for specific brands must be considered when collecting for an exhibit; a station of iPods or iPads with various brand apps that visitors could click through would be the best way to display the mobile app phenomenon. Television personalization is trickier, as it is a field that is still largely undeveloped. But by the time the exhibit opens, television programs will probably be far more intertwined with advertising and personalized for each viewer.[5] These stages are still experimental, and it is unclear how exactly that development will occur.


Like the digital advertising industry as a whole, the exhibit should be an interactive, multimedia experience; I imagine videos playing, computers with screens of different advertisements, and smartphones or app-approved devices available for visitors to explore apps. Perhaps visitors can even enter basic information so their museum experience could be targeted just like their digital advertisements are. The most important point to get across is that digital advertising is no longer passive product announcements, but active interaction with the consumer in a number of various ways.

[1] Susan Smulyan, "Introduction to Internet Advertising," American Advertising: History and Consequences, Brown University, Salomon Hall, Nov 14 2011.

[2] Richard Ting, “R/GA: The Agency for the Digital Age,” American Advertising: History and Consequences, Brown University, Salomon Hall, Dec 5 2011.

[3] Joseph Turow, Niche Envy: Marketing Discrimination in the Digital Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006).

[4] Ting.

[5] Joseph Turow, Niche Envy: Marketing Discrimination in the Digital Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 122.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.