Getting to the intention economy

I was looking for some quotage on advertising, and ran across this from 1999, (it says 1998, but that’s a typo) which lists ideas that would find a home in The Cluetrain Manifesto.

In it I said that advertising is unaccountable. That has changed. Google and others have made their form of adveriting highly accountable, and that has made all the difference.

But at some point we will look at the accounting. Hard. When we do, we will see two things: 1) it still involves enormous amounts of waste and guesswork; and 2) it’s still something that’s done exclusively on the sell side, in the absence of original, personal input from the buy side.

Then, eventually, we will build markets based on buyers’ intentions, and not just attempts by sellers to grab buyers’ attention. The latter won’t go away. But the former needs to be built.

Bonus link.

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5 Responses to Getting to the intention economy

  1. Hanan Cohen says:

    Doc, there is one thing I really don’t understand about this “buyers’ intentions” thing.

    Isn’t the economy driven by people buying things they don’t intend to?

    You (Doc) have now moved to a new house. You see all that’s not perfect in the house and it maybe bothers you. In a short while you will not notice those things because you will decide that changing them takes too much energy than you have.

    Something (or someone) from the “outside” will point a finger at one of them and then you will maybe fix it or buy a replacement or pay someone to do the work.

    If there is no outside signal, you will do nothing.

    Isn’t advertising this signal?

  2. JTH says:

    Re: Google Adwords

    Having been an “early adopter”, within something like the first 6months of AdWords launch, I like the model.

    You are looking for “x” or something related to “x”, well I’ve got something you might be interested in.

    But wait, there’s more …
    The finer the focus, the better, for both client and vendor.

    I call it granularity
    If you want to search for mushrooms, I’m not all that interested in advertising, but if you want dried morel mushrooms, I am interested.

    I use to have even better examples when I was running the ads.
    Been away from the “front lines” for a couple of years.

    Point being, the closer the client and vendor can come with specific terms, the better the chance of a “match” or of “I have what you have been looking for”

    As for looking at the accounting – major flaw is “click fraud” which inflates costs to the vendor and muddies the market.


  3. Hal O'Brien says:


    “If there is no outside signal, you will do nothing.”

    Absolutely not true. I’m in exactly this situation right now, having bought a house in June. Those things that bug me, but, and I’m not getting inured to them as you describe.

    But *I* want to choose what I do or do not do. Companies that have tried to advertise themselves to me — and, a house sale being a matter of public record, there are many — are dead to me. Straight to the trash can, deleted off the phone machine, etc.

    “Isn’t advertising this signal?”


    Or at least, not for me — and, because I assume I’m not exceptional, not for many others.

    If you want to make the claim that advertising is this signal for many people (though not all), you might get some support from me there. But as a generalized statement — no, I’ve observed so many exceptions that it just doesn’t work. (Starbucks, for example, has never advertised on TV at all. The ads you see are for the grocery store canned drinks, which are done in a partnership with Pepsi, who is addicted to advertising, shareholder equity be damned.)

    Look — if advertising were tightly bound to sales, then one would think the Fortune 500 would more-or-less line up with the list of top advertisers, yes?

    They don’t. At all. There isn’t even an inverse relationship.

    The relationship is completely random. Even within specific industries.

    Which is to say, there is no empirically demonstrable relationship at all.

  4. Hal O'Brien says:

    “Those things that bug me, but, and I’m not getting inured to them as you describe.”

    Should read, “Those things that bug me, bug me, and…”

    Thinking ahead of typing fingers again. 🙂

  5. Doc Searls says:

    Hanan, I wouldn’t say the *whole* economy “driven by people buying things they don’t intend to. That’s obviously a large part of it but not the whole thing.

    What I’m working on, and hoping to see, is more economic activity that is driven by the actual, known, ready-to-buy intentions of customers for specific products and services — much of which today cannot be seen or fulfilled because it isn’t happening inside the silos provided by vendors.

    Advertising can be a signal for many things, including those inside the scene you describe. But it is not the only possible signal. it happens to be one we’ve used ever since mass media provided the few with means to send mesages to the many.

    The many can now send messages as well. I’d like to help with that.

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