Aldo Agostinelli

With the announcement a few weeks ago that UK company Tesco Mobile is launching a new phone tariff, offering consumers discounts on their mobile phone bills in return for agreeing to view ads, came a new weapon in the war against ad blockers. It also got me thinking about the changing relationship between companies and consumers, and how tech is putting control firmly back into the hands of the customer.

Traditionally, consumerism has been based on the principle that brands make things, market them to consumers, consumers decide they need them, and then they buy them. Tech companies have changed all that: look at Facebook. They’ve created a model that has most of us addicted; constantly logging on, updating, and sharing personal information via it: happily, (if sometimes unknowingly) sharing our data. But rather than making us pay to use Facebook, they’re making the brands pay for access to us and our data. In return for giving Facebook access to all sorts of information – how old we are, our relationship status, what sorts of brands, music, films and games we like, whether we’re getting married or about to go on holiday – Facebook is able to sell advertising space to brands, effectively funding consumers’ use of their tech. It’s a model most social networks look to emulate. Music streaming companies like Spotify work on a similar principle. In return for listening to a few ads, I can stream as much music as I want. And now, phone companies have started to follow suit.

As ad blockers becoming increasingly more prevalent, could ‘rewarding’ consumers for watching your marketing messages be the next logical step?

With consumers become increasingly aware of their value as a consumer, we could see the way that brands interact with them change in some very interesting ways. If mobile phone networks and music streaming brands are prepared to offer us things we want for free, in return for watching a few ads, will Netflix also start considering an ad-funded version of their service? Could Uber start part-funding your taxi habit by serving you ads while you sit in the back of their cars? The possibilities for consumers, and advertisers, are endless.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or via Twitter – you can find me at @AgostinelliAldo.

Aldo Agostinelli