Revenge Of The Ad Blockers

I saw an interesting lament from a marketer that has been trying to reach prospects by phone, but is frustrated because "nobody answers their phones" anymore. This struck me because my wife and I have been debating if we should dump the three landlines coming into our house and simply live with cell phones. "After all," she says, "you never answer the phone anyway."

That's not entirely true. Every once in a while, I will pick up -- long enough for someone to start pitching me something I don't need or want (or want to contribute to) before loudly interrupting by saying, "You know this line is on the national Do Not Call list,” and promptly hanging up. Or if I am in a good mood, I simply say "No, thanks" before hanging up while the caller is in mid-sentence.  There’s no doubt that at least once, someone will have to scream back violently, "I'M CALLING BECAUSE YOUR SON HAS BEEN ARRESTED..."

On the other hand, my wife (who, once engaged with one of her chatty sisters or our daughter at college, can effortlessly spend an hour or more on the line) always answers the phone. In fact, she will often patiently listen to pitches, gently explaining in soothing tones why she is not "buying today." I argue to no effect that this only encourages the telemarketer and makes a pointless call last even longer.  But she grew up in sales and knows what that hang-up sounds like, so tries to at least be polite in her rejection.  That’s unlike some folks who try to discourage phone calls by blowing into the receiver with an air horn that would deafen half a football stadium, or who say "hang on just a minute," then leave the phone off the hook while they go on about their business.  One friend hands the phone to his baby, who alternately cries or drools on the earpiece.



Hang-ups are just the most active kind of ad blocking. I use my TV remote control and my DVR as ad blockers as well. Once I rid magazines of blow-in cards, any heavy stock or fragrance sample pages or fake covers, I don't mind their ads. In fashion and home improvement magazines, ads are often prettier and more compelling than the editorial content.

I cannot begin to read a newspaper before I remove any sticker ads that cover the headlines or quarter-page ad wraps – all of which make me so angry that I will toss out the entire back page just to get rid of them.  Newspaper inserts get the same treatment – along with direct-mail  pieces, which are wholesale tossed without even being examined.  But with direct mail, I do pause once in a while and say "Thank you for keeping the postal system running” before flipping all into the trash.

Some ads are hard to block, like all of Times Square from 40th to 47th Streets. But -- except to tourists -- such ads become background colors of the night. I could not tell you one brand that advertises on signs or billboards no matter where I see them because, unless I am on the interstate looking for a great barbeque stop, I am blind to their images or copy. I confess I could not ignore the gigantic Pepsi sign across the East River from the U.N. in New York when I lived in that neighborhood, but since I only drink Diet Coke, the sign was just an eyesore.

Best way to sell to me? Newspaper ads. I read three papers a day almost cover to cover and look at nearly every ad (that aren't women's fashions). I constantly rip and save ads (also out of magazines) for things I want to buy.

I am sure you have your own media habits and ways to avoid becoming toxically overloaded by the estimated 5,000 ad exposures a day.  But honestly, none of it matters unless you are selling a quality product backed by flawless customer service. That's where loyalty and word of mouth come in, which is inventory you can't buy.

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