16 Year Old Foresees The Death of Advertising

NFTE winners announcement

I had the great pleasure of attending the South Florida finals of the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) last week and what I learned should scare Google, Yahoo, and every company dependent on advertising. In short, the takeaway is that advertising is dead – we simply just don’t know it yet.

[If you’ve never hear of NFTE, they are a wonderful organization. They teach high school kids how to start a business. Having been a judge at some of the past competitions, I can tell you that I’ve seen 15 and 16 year old put to shame entrepreneurs that are twice, three times or more times their age – I mean – these kids are learning how to pitch!]

So here’s what happened. Daniel, who’s 16 years old, presented his idea of having a DJ service that serves high school kids his age and as he grows older he can sell to college students – his unique selling proposition was that he was a kid and only a kid can understand the music tastes of kids. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, he goes through his deck, about a dozen slides tops and one of the judges asks him: “How come you have zero dollars in your budget for advertising”. His answer:  “I don’t need any, customers will find me through word of mouth and social media”.

Sure there could be a cost with doing that (time and maybe hiring someone to do it for you) but the point is that you can do it yourself. You can create your own community. That’s what fan pages are on Facebook. That’s what successful blogs are all about. That’s what Meetup, Ning and LinkedIn groups are all about.

So roll forward, 20, 30 or 40 years into the future. Every entrepreneur has a similar first response. I’ll skip the ad budget and put effort into building a community on Facebook or whatever is popular at the time. Hey, isn’t that what many are already doing? How scary indeed if you depend on ad revenues.

So,what do you think? Will advertising eventually devolve and become less important? Where are the opportunities here? What are you going to do to get Daniel’s business?

BTW, Jessica won ‘cause she had a kick-butt idea to create a custom wall design business that required minimal capital to start. In VC terms Daniel’s business might have more immediate scale but Jessica’s can definitely be something that she can grow now and into her future.

If NFTE’s in your neighborhood, get involved. And bring along some of those over the hill entrepreneurs in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and more and have them witness a 16 year old pitch a deal like a pro really should.

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