Owning Intent and FOMO

Travis Lusk
Travis Lusk

The results are clear. Intent and fear of missing out are the two ingredients for digital advertising revenue dominance, at scale.

Combined, Google and Facebook represent 57.6% of every digital dollar spent. Think about that for a second. Almost 60 cents of every digital dollar spent end up in the pockets of just two companies. How on earth is that possible?

Credit: Visual Capitalist


Google owns consumer intent. Period. End of story. There's no better tool in the land for understanding what a consumer is about to buy, or is interested in buying, better than search. Who owns search? Google. Duh.

If someone takes the time to Google something, it is because they have an interest in that subject. Mobile devices have dramatically accelerated the time from search to action.

Consider this, when someone Googles the address for a Walgreens on their phone, there's a 99% chance that they are going to a Walgreens right now. Like right this second. They're on the way.

What if you could get a message to every consumer that you know is about to walk into a Walgreens in the next few moments? Obviously, this is valuable intelligence for Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade, RiteAide, etc., but forget about the store for a moment. Think about all of the products for sale inside the store.

There are hundreds of companies with products on the shelves inside just one of these stores. And you have a customer about to walk through the door.

Google's platform of products designed to leverage intent go well beyond search engine marketing. Youtube, display, mobile, outdoor, television...you name it. It's all able to be leveraged instantly.

Intent. Intent. Intent.

Obsessive #FOMO

Why is it that the average American checks their phone at least 46 times a day? No, that's not a made up number.

Think that is insane? Most Americans tap, touch, and swipe their phones over 2,600 times a day. We are obsessed. Why?

There's even entire marketing platforms dedicated to leveraging the power of FOMO.

Fear of missing out. #FOMO

We obsessively, and often subconsciously, check our phones all day long because we are afraid of missing out on something. The stuff that we're scared of missing consists mainly of social media updates and email (damn work email).

Enter Facebook. The globally dominant leader in social media activity. Sure, there's Facebook proper, but do not forget about Instagram and WhatsApp. The social mindshare occupied by those three flagship properties is unfathomable.

If we as an industry know that we are going to obsessively check our social accounts hourly (or at least daily), that makes the dominant social platforms ripe for advertising.

Throw in the ability to target social users based on what you already know they like, what they already talk about with their friends, and what their cohorts already like, and you're a step away from...drumroll please...intent. There's that word again.

It is no wonder that these two companies represent such a huge share of the digital advertising market share. They're ninjas at leveraging intent and FOMO to generate ad revenue.

Also, pay attention to the other companies in the chart. Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. Even more examples of intent and FOMO leveraged in more niche use cases.

The fact that Snapchat is already on the list is fascinating all by itself. The growth of this company is astounding but obvious. Snapchat provides a firehose of voyeuristic FOMO straight to every user. No wonder their revenues are off the charts for such a young company.

Travis Lusk Twitter

Opinionated digital advertising practitioner, consultant for Fortune 100 Brands, and writer at ADLINGO.org.