Consumers Say Ads Are Now Less Informative About Products

It appears technology is at a tipping point, where the darker story of tech being bad -- such as robbing us of real human intimacy, social media making us depressed, mobile stunting our kids’ development -- is giving way to a brighter view, according to Mindshare North America's Culture Vulture trend report that examines what people want, the new companies and technologies that are meeting those needs, and how brands can find a role to play.

Not only do people want to contribute to good causes -- they also want to make their good intentions widely known online (think the Ice Bucket Challenge, #givingtuesday), says Mindshare. Brands need to enable consumers to express this desire for caring, such as embracing the popular buy one, give one model or by living how they preach. Consumers want to know exactly how companies are doing good, how they treat their own employees well, keep their promises, and put people over profits. 



Anywhere, anytime technology means there are more distractions to deal with in people's lives -- but thankfully, there are increasingly innovative new tools to deal with those distractions. "Yes, technology sometimes means we’re ‘alone together’, but the new intimacies it creates through FaceTime, or the sharing economy, balance this out by far," says Mark Potts, head of insights, Mindshare North America. "And yes, our kids are sometimes buried in screens, but, as the Oxford developmental neuroscientist Dorothy Bishop points out: if we really want to discourage our kids from losing themselves in two dimensional surfaces, we should be discouraging them from reading books."

The report also details how an increasing number of consumers want brands and tools to help them ‘outsource control’ in their daily lives. They want products and services that provide a benefit to them. Specifically, the study found that the percentage of Americans who "would like a trusted company to help simplify my daily life” has increased from 31% in 2012 to 42% today.

The Acorns app is one example of that kind of company. It keeps track of user’s purchases and invests the change from those purchases into a savings or investment account. Similarly, iBag is a program that prevents users from accessing their digital wallets, thus preventing unwise purchases. These services are likely to become even more prevalent and popular over the coming months, per the study.

Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more savvy to everyday marketing tactics, and now they are gaming the system. For instance, 31% say “when shopping online, I’ll intentionally leave items in a ‘shopping basket’ in hopes of receiving a discount from the store.” And 47% try to time their travel purchases to when they think prices will be lower. 

"It was surprising to see the extent to which marketing is seemingly becoming a game for many consumers," says Potts. "Millennials in particular feel that they can outsmart marketing (48% of Millennials feel they’re smarter than most marketing done by brands). You know if you tweet at a brand it’ll be more effective than calling their customer service line. That if you hold items in your shopping basket online, you’re likely to get served an offer down the line. The question is – will this impact the effectiveness of these strategies?"

These savvier consumers make it harder for brands to advertise to them. The percentage of Americans who say advertising helps them learn about products and services has dropped from 52% in 2005 to 41% in 2014. Likewise, those who say they read ads in magazines out of curiosity has dropped from 31% in 2005 to 23% today and the percentage of people who like TV ads that make them laugh has declined from 74% to 62% over the same time frame.

Ultimately, brands need to understand that people know how the game works and either play up to their knowledge or help them step out of the game. 

With regard to the consumption of information, the report found that a third of Americans feel pressure to stay up to date on the latest news, but also don’t have time to read all the articles they want. To cope with that, people skim the surface -- 47% of Americans “prefer to browse the headlines rather than read detailed information.” But there’s also growing market for content with more substance. 

The study also reports that brands will increasingly use “multi-sensorial experiences” as they reach out to consumers as one solution to fragmented audiences and split consumer attention. Brands will marry technology to the senses to create stronger brand experiences. Per the study, psychologists have found that using more of our senses increases engagement and memory of content. From virtual reality to 4D and more, brands can use creative media in new ways to stimulate consumer senses. Already, Volvo, Nissan, and Dos Equis have incorporated virtual reality into promotions, and Marriott and Ralph Lauren have developed 4D experiences. 

This is the agency's fourth annual trend report that identifies macro and micro trends that impact the marketing and communications strategies of the agency’s clients. The North American version utilizes a Mindshare proprietary survey, Mindshare’s proprietary network of “leading edge” consumers in cities across North America, and third party resources, including government data, syndicated sources and behavioral data.

5 comments about "Consumers Say Ads Are Now Less Informative About Products".
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  1. Taylor Enriquez from Arizona State University, January 26, 2015 at 11:06 p.m.

    I completely agree with the title of this article. I believe that advertisements have become less informative, but in a way we let it happen. The way I see it is that we see these advertisements that display different products and services and because of the way it is presented to us, we find it intriguing, begging to know more. That is the way media plays to the audience. I feel that because the advertisements have become vaguer it has created a sense of wonderment in their audience. In a way I can see how it can be a good thing for production but a bad thing for the people buying and/or investing into the products being shown. One statement from this article quoted from Dorothy Bishop that I would question is, "If we really want to discourage our kids from losing themselves in two dimensional surfaces, we should be discouraging them from reading books." I would like to understand more of this point of view between reading a book and being online.

  2. Mike Greco from Indy App Systems, January 27, 2015 at 2:54 a.m.

    This is very discouraging. Advertisers must be getting the picture by now that message relevance and informative content are the lifeblood of impact ads. Obviously, most are still missing the mark despite one helpful example and guide after the next...

  3. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, January 27, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

    From both research and creative perspectives, it's rather frustrating to systematically observe not only the lack of product relevant content but also creative that doesn't event approach full and effective use audio. Just close your eyes (which is what many viewers figuratively do if they are not in necessary room taking care of, well, necessary things) and consume three or four breaks/spot pods. What did you remember? This is not to bash visuals but it is a plea to remember the value of the audio track!

  4. Chuck Dunning from XETV-TV, January 27, 2015 at 2:34 p.m.

    Re: The last post. I've always tested the effectiveness of a TV ad the opposite way. Turn off the sound. If you still get the basics of the message then the video is effective. If you can't, video is not being maximized and perhaps the commercial could have been just as effective (in communication at least) as a radio spot.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 27, 2015 at 6:01 p.m.

    Frankly, the results of this highly generalized research study are not very surprising. People are less happy about lots of things than they were ten years ago, so it's a given that they would criticize TV commercials and, for that matter, all advertising. But lets be realistic. TV advertisers are increasingly concerned about getting attention for their messages in a world where zapping and other forms of avoidance are on the rise and ad breaks are cluttered more than before. So, not surprisingly, they utilize creative "hooks" to catch attention and then tell their story as best they can in 15 and 30 second commercials. If they tried to be more "informative" ,as respondents in this study suggest, most people would consider their messages boring and redundant---and zap the heck out of them, Advertisers run campaigns that, over time, register their points to those who are receptive. These campaigns sually involve TV commercial "pools" ---same message, different characters and settings---- to refresh and sustain the campaign's momentum, as well as other media and promotional efforts. Most advertisers don't believe that TV's job is to provide all sorts of info in each commercial. TV's creates awareness of the product, gets across its basic selling point, and serves as an umbrella of support for other marketing activities or sources of information, like the Internet, which consumers can use if they desire more detailed information.

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