When they finish the process of better and better targeted advertising, that's when the whole idea of advertising will go poof, will disappear. If it's perfectly targeted, it isn't advertising, it's information. Information is welcome, advertising is offensive. Who wants to pay to create information that's discarded? Who wants to pay to be a nuisance? Wouldn't it be better to pay to get the information to the people who want it? Are you afraid no one wants your information? Then maybe you'd better do some research and make a product that people actually want to know about. Dave Winer
After reading that quote from Dare Obasanjo's recent blog entry, I was floored by its pregnancy. The best advertising—like the best sales tactics—is invisible: it is about matching someone's needs perfectly. You're no longer selling to them, you're helping them and they can't buy your product fast enough. What has the progression of advertising been but a long, slow march towards better and better targeting?
I think the end of advertising, this withering away of the message, occurs when the consumer tells the advertiser exactly what advertisement he or she wants to hear. At that point, it really is just information. For me, an excellent example was the fad of the late 90s: the personal agent. Back then, the vision was that people would create "intelligent" agents to go out and do their bidding. The consumer would say "tell me about flights with window seats going from Phoenix to LA leaving December 3rd around 4ish" and the agent would come back with details and ticket information. In reality, that's the pinnacle of marketing—if the airline conceived the agent. Otherwise, it's really more like a search engine or travel agent.
Like Dare, I think this is the future. The agent was an idea ahead of its time; the breathless contemporaneous accounts read more like science fiction when compared with the available technology. Technology has caught up, though, and this user-generated marketing is going to be big.