[Marketing Trends] New Ad-Less Platforms

Consumers are more skeptical of paid advertising than ever before. According to a study commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 94% of consumers don’t trust ads. Ouch.

New ad-less platforms have emerged that let consumers directly control the content they absorb and let creators connect directly with their audiences. And, they’re incredibly popular right now.

These platforms are all about sharing knowledge, educating others and learning together. They present a huge opportunity for brands who want to grow their influence authentically.

The surge in popularity of these new platforms suggests marketers reevaluate the tools we’ve been using to talk to our customers. These new platforms are the antithesis of Facebook and its kin that develop complicated algorithms to figure out how to most effectively push ads to you. 

Here’s a rundown of the hottest new platforms.

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What just celebrated its first birthday, has a value of $4 billion and attracts as many as a million people at once?

Clubhouse. This new audio-only, invite-only social media app is a bit like a moderated live podcast. Members can create “rooms” with specific topics they pick, and then have conversations about them. Rooms have a handful of speakers and a gallery of listeners who can request to join in or put their virtual hand up for permission to ask a question. 

Why the fuss?

The spike in demand was generated by a box-office event that took place on Clubhouse where Elon Musk grilled Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev about why his company suspended GameStop trading during the peak of its popularity. Users, including celebrities like Oprah and Elon Musk, prefer the format for its intimacy and live setting. 

Why the huge uptick in engagement?

It’s live, easy to use, and nothing is recorded. Members feel like they’re on the field, not in the stands. 

What platform attracts 500,000 new users a day? 

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Founded in 2016, OnlyFans is a subscription site that has 1.1 million content creators and 50 million registered users. Like Clubhouse, it’s a platform that empowers the user. It offers huge benefits to creators who can lock their content behind a paywall, allowing fans access for a monthly fee or one-off tip. Since its inception, the site has paid out more than $600 million to creators.

Unlike Clubhouse, OnlyFans creators can use the platform to offer videos, photos and even chances to chat one-on-one, all for a price. OnlyFans creators keep 80% of the money they make with the rest going to the site. 

As a lot of OnlyFans content is of an adult nature, users have to be at least 18 years old and need a government-issued ID for proof.

What platform just raised $65 million at a valuation of around $650 million?


Substack, which is a platform for independent writers. Why the $650 million valuation? Investors and consumers alike are disillusioned with the ad-supported, social media model. Substack is founded on the subscription model of content sharing. Writers can send digital newsletters directly to their readers and monetize their work by putting it behind a paywall. It’s about a direct connection between consumer and brand. It’s about transparency and authenticity.

How does it work?

Founded in 2017, Substack allows writers to build their own paid subscription businesses, taking a 10% cut of revenue in addition to Stripe’s transaction fee for payments. More than 100,000 subscribers pay writers on Substack. This new age media offers thinkers with a platform to say whatever they want, unencumbered by editors and bosses. It enables their audience to control the content they receive and even find a community. 

So how does this relate to my manufacturing, distribution, healthcare or professional service business? 

Consumers are opting to hand select the content they consume. They’re migrating from social media sites like Facebook that serve them ads whether they want them or not, to platforms where they control the messages. 

While you may not be ready to sponsor a room on Clubhouse or build a brand on Substack, you need to be aware of these trends and learn from these platforms’ success.

So what can you do to connect with your customers directly now? 

Your website & email marketing 

These channels enable consumers to control the content they consume. They both:

  • Require the consumer to opt-in.
  • Are ad-less.
  • Offer a direct connection between the brand and the customer.

Just like the new platforms, your website and email marketing programs require that you understand your customer. What topics do they want to read about? How often do they want to connect with your brand? What design do they find most approachable and appealing? 

Both channels offer marketers the opportunity to test, measure and analyze to get it right. 

Email marketing is especially exciting because you can personalize the messages. And as people are starting to boycott social media, it’s unlikely anyone will be shutting down their inbox anytime soon. 

Learn from these trends. 

Which tools will you use to connect directly with your customers? 

Let us know how we can help: laura@vivalabrand.com

April 2021

Laura Sheridan
Laura Sheridan, Founder & President of Viva La Brand has a proven track record of effective branding and advertising, spanning over twenty five years with some of the best in the business: Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago; Hill, Holliday and Polaroid in Boston; and, Progressive Insurance and Viva La Brand in Cleveland. Laura founded Viva La Brand to offer large and small organizations alike strategic marketing expertise to catapult their visibility, growth and profitability. Viva La Brand develops effective brand strategies and conducts ad agency searches that successfully match clients with the optimal ad agency partners. Laura is proud to work with smart, innovative leader Brands in a wide range of industries from health care to manufacturing to technology and financial services. In addition to her work with clients, Laura is an author and speaker on all topics related to Brand.
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