The Beet was wondering about the topsy-turvy world for advertisers — how they can make headway selling their stuff with all this decentralized media, social networking and all types of technology platforms like wireless.  Can they get the attention their clients want?

We had chat with technology oracle Esther Dyson high atop her Manhattan office building. Esther’s been thinking and writing about this topic for sometime – aka – the attention economy.

She says that young Web users want attention from others, namely their peers. That’s what the whole social networking thing is about, showing off, posting personal videos and pictures. (Parents, of course see this as an appalling loss of privacy.) Consumer generated content is so big right now because people like to talk about themselves. But that makes it difficult for marketers and advertisers to capture their attention with an eye towards selling a product or brand.

Esther says that marketers aren’t going to obtain the kind of results their clients want via video. Sponsor something, promote the brand, but if you want to sell something go offline. According to Esther, the attention economy doesn’t have room for marketers; marketers should stick to what they do best, and not try to use traditional approaches in a revolutionary environment.

The battle between the desire for personal attention and the financial benefits of harnessing the social networking phenomenon is well-explained in this article from ClickZ, “What My Space Means for Marketers.” The article details some of the marketing efforts that have incorporated the pioneering qualities of MySpace. Music is one industry that has found success amid the profiles and pictures, as are books, tv and video and cause marketing (Save the Whales! type stuff). But these are industries that are already very personalized  – if you don’t like a book or support a cause you’re not going to identify with it, or post it on your MySpace profile for example. Enter Esther’s comments about sponsoring or brand promotion – both of these methods have elements that can jive with someone’s personality. And capture some of their attention.

Esther addresses this topic (and others) extensively in a wonderful dialogue in today’s Wall Street Journal Online (which is free by the way). She has a dialogue with Vint Cerf, “Chief Internet Evangelist” at Google. A must read!

Some marketers are really positive about reaching the social networkers.  The Beet enjoyed reading the advertising column article by Stuart Elliott in today’s New York Times on some creative ways that GE is reaching out to MySpace and other new media platforms.

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