Did he just say Internet marketing doesn’t work?

Did Rushkoff really just say that? Sheryl and I peered at one another in disbelief. We were seated next to eachother at last night’s grand ClickZ 10th Anniversary gala, soon-to-be-former IAB GM Sheryl Draizen and I. We listened intently as Douglas Rushkoff explained his observations on the advertising industry — how and why it arose, and, yes, how the promise of the Internet has been squelched by over-commercialization.

He went on a bit more, and then he pronounced, “Internet marketing doesn’t work.”

I’m not quite sure what he said directly after that because by then I was whispering something about how incredible the statement was to Sheryl, her mouth agape.

Marketers and ad execs squirming in their seats? Oh yes.

But, that was sort of the point. As ClickZ Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Lieb said when Rushkoff had left the podium, he’d been invited to provoke conversations. It wasn’t about being comfortable; it was about stimulating thought.

One response regarding the notion that the promise of the Internet has been ruined by excessive advertising may have been, “Hey, I’ll bet you like all that free content and all those free platforms for connecting with people, don’t ya?”

It’s cliché, but true. The fact is advertising — the work of the people in the audience and the once-scrappy startups that have revolutionized the industry, along with groups like the IAB and, yes, publications like ClickZ — is what enables a whole lot of those platforms for communication and democratization we often take for granted.

Sure, the adification of the Web can be annoying, even to the people involved in producing it. There remain years, decades even, of working out the kinks, but whether it works is something many have already decided. Take Intel, or any of the countless companies that have continually re-allocated more and more dollars to interactive. Yes, one reason for that additional spending is more people are spending more time online (connecting with other humans, learning, exploring the world from multiple perspectives, working, creating new industries out of the ether, and more).

But if those advertisers didn’t think marketing to those people on the Web works, they wouldn’t keep doing it.

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