Commentary

Hate Advertising? Hell, Yeah!

STRATA, the self-proclaimed "leader in media buying and selling software," sent out a release noting that about a third of consumers say online video ads are more irritating than TV ads. This "online survey of 675 adults that watch online videos or TV programming online" (no disclosure on the response rate) also found that nearly half of those asked, found both TV and online video ads “equally annoying.”

Though I didn't look very hard, I strongly suspect that STRATA sells a solution that somehow makes video ads less "annoying" (better targeting?). Otherwise this survey, also picked up by the Wall Street Journal, is yet another astounding glimpse into the obvious. In the long and storied history of advertising, has anyone ever, ever fielded a study where consumers said they in fact liked commercials or any other kind of marketing (other than Super Bowl ad rankings, which in truth are just a ranking from less to more annoying)?  While indeed a percentage of the populace would say they "love" this individual ad or that one (at least before they have seen it for the 12th time, when their affection has waned considerably), the persistent default response to being asked is that Americans hate advertising.

In any given poll, Americans also hate lobbyists, Congressional representatives, car salesmen, lawyers and business executives. And journalists. And admen (Don Draper aside). That this is news on any given day is a mystery to me.

There is a reason Americans embrace any and all technology to help them avoid or fast-forward through ads: because they are intrusive, disruptive, often not interesting and repetitive. Not to mention poorly targeted and, too often, irrelevant.  So ads are basically a total waste of time for the brands behind them. 

U.S. advertisers spend north of $170 billion on paid media each year. That doesn't count what it costs to produce the ads, which for a single TV spot can run from five figures to seven in a hurry. This gigantic economic sector would not exist if, in some way, somehow, Americans were overcoming their default hatred of advertising and responding to it. But don't bother asking them. Not only do they hate advertising, they are loath to say it influences their purchase decisions. Which is bullshit, but what are you going to do?

Maybe Wanamaker didn't know which half of his advertising was wasted, but these days brands are doing almost everything possible to assure their ads hit home and drive sales. They test creative ideas, optimize their media and creative units for best response. They have reams of data detailing nearly every aspect of when, where, why and how their ads make an impact. That brands still approve profoundly off-base creative and allow their agencies to make inefficient media buys and turn a blind eye to things like bot-drive impression fraud, is a whole 'nother story.

It does not take too many instances of ads that make spurious claims, that have questionable imagery or copy, or run in absolutely the wrong context, or try to camouflage themselves among editorial content, to give folks additional reasons to hate advertising.  They already have enough. Let's not give them more.
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5 comments about "Hate Advertising? Hell, Yeah!".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 18, 2014 at 9:04 a.m.
    Annoying and not relevant are 2 different things, e.g., Budwiser (That Danish Company) horses. I could watch those ads a few more times throughout the year although I don't drink beer. But they disappear shortly after the Superbowl.
  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , July 18, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.
    Poll-type surveys of this nature often seem to show that people don't like online video ads or, for that matter, TV commercials in general. Indeed, no other outcome is possible when the questions are posed in a vague way. Not many people will come out in favor of commercials, least they seem to be idiots. The proof of the pudding, from an advertiser's point of view, is how consumers respond to specific commercials in specific program viewing situations. There is plenty of evidence that well designed commercials---and video ads---about products that are personally relevant to the audience, have stopping power and get their messages across.
  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications , July 18, 2014 at 11:37 a.m.
    so true Ed, underscoring the mystery of why anyone finds surveys like this newsworthy.
  4. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct , July 18, 2014 at 4:58 p.m.
    There is an important truth here that the online guys ignore: Somehow, online ads are far more frustrating than TV. Maybe we're just used to the pacing & timing of TV ads... Partly that's how they're executed - we generally know when to expect them, how long they'll last, etc.... But my college students (yes, fabled 18-24 yo demographic) clearly find online chaos far more offensive than TV ads. Think about how obnoxious and intrusive online work has become - dancing shapes, popups that are hard to get rid of, on HuffPost the top of the page dances up and down as the page struggles to load the ad then reduce it. What I have yet to hear online proponents accept is (a) consumers, when they're online, are on a far more focused mission than when watching TV which (b) means it's far harder to get their attention to an ad which (c) explains absurdly low cost of internet ads because they're highly ineffective and (d) means advertisers become extraordinarily obnoxious in trying to break consumers out of their mission to pay attention to their ads. What about the poll? The poll may be bunk. But the conclusion is what I see and hear constantly from people around me.
  5. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , July 21, 2014 at 5:17 p.m.
    I agree withe Ed Papazian's ultimate point. MediaPost needs more discipline when it comes to reporting and using online surveys. Though the piece was labeled a "commentary," bad poll data makes for bad commentary, if not identified as such. In this case, who knows the quality of the survey? Hence, who should care?