Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Web3 – The End of Advertising?

Graham Cooke is a web3 advisor and the author of Web3 – The End of Business as Usual

The 2000 DotCom crash led many to predict the death of the web.  Falling share prices, evidence of corporate skulduggery and business bankruptcies showed that the experiment was over.  However, as we know, 2000 was just a stepping stone to a digital revolution that has fundamentally changed business and society.

Web3 is currently in its DotCom crash moment.  Falling coin prices, spectacular business flameouts and allegations of fraud are leading many to gleefully dance on the grave of the blockchain.  But I think any obituaries are premature.

Web3 to web4

As with the internet in 2000, web3 is in its infancy.  It’s in what I call its protocol era.  Like the early web, we’re at the stage of developing the train tracks which underpin the technology.  It’s complex, hard to use and off-putting for consumers.  

Web2, and in the future web4, are the app eras, where the consumer friendly applications are built on these protocols.  In web2 we saw the likes of facebook and twitter creating services that drove massive global adoption on the protocols of web1.  Similarly, whilst web3 is driving real change, web4 will be when you see the real impact of this technology.

The supply side revolution

Web3, and its successor web4 are set to fundamentally change the world.  The shift to a web3 economy is at least as big a transformation as we saw from pre-internet to internet based society.  And it’s going to have a massive impact on marketing.

The shift that we are seeing is from the demand-side revolution of web1/2 to one on the supply side.  Web1 and web2 changed how we bought products and services and how we communicated with each other.  Web3 and web4 will introduce a supply side revolution, entirely changing how we come together to create products, content and services, our economies and even governance structures.

Through tokens, which essentially give users a shareholding in a project, and DAOs (distributed autonomous organisations), which make them an active stakeholder, web3 will create a bottom up economy, rather than the top down corporation model we see today.

Marketing in a web3 world

What this means for marketers is that a web3/4 strategy is going to be about more than just taking payments in Bitcoin.  The fundamentals of business are going to be upended and the way that we market to consumers must change with it.

The key change will be that web3 will make consumers a part of the supply chain.  They will be active and incentivised participants in the creation, marketing and distribution of products, not just passive purchasers.  Through DAOs, consumers become real stakeholders in products, part of a community that owns a product or service as much as a brand or a corporation.

The upside of this is that incentivised consumer/creators will do your job for you.  Marketing will happen within and from these product communities.  Marketers will be able to recruit an army of tens of thousands of community members to be the voice of the brand.  In a way it’ll be like affiliate marketing but strictly provable and native to the web.

The AI future

Longer term, web4 will be the platform that enables a personalised, AI driven web.  This will go beyond the concept of a unified public web to create personalised webs for each individual, driven by AI that builds them in real time.  This will effectively create a digital twin for each of us that understands our wants and needs and fulfils them automatically.  Think ChatGPT but based on your own datasets. 

Operating on web3 protocols, this AI web will remove humans as the primary commerce actors on the web, with our digital twins identifying, negotiating and purchasing the content, products and services that it understands we want.

For marketers this shift is fundamental.  You’re no longer going to be producing creative for humans, its going to be about understanding the AI marketplace and creating products and services optimised for these twins and their real-world human partners.

The death of advertising

As with any prediction of the ‘Death of…’, web3/4 will not be the end of advertising.  Products and services will still need to compete to be bought by end consumers.  

It will, however, be the end of advertising as we know it.  The basic supply side value chain on which advertising rests will be gone.  Brands will not simply advertise to passive consumers, they will need to join them in their communities and work with them to build and sell products and services.

This is going to change not just the world of advertising, but the world full stop.


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