Advertising: Stop And Consider The Consumer's Perspective

A PR guy wrote an opinion piece for an ad trade this week that outlines the opportunities for marketers to invade the self-driving car experience with commercials. "Not only will self-driving cars start to transform our infrastructure, they'll fundamentally change our culture -- something that translates to a big opportunity for marketers," he writes breathlessly. He mentions displaying content on car windows, using AR to supplement the "view" of the landscape, and bombing cell phones with geo-specific offers as "drivers" get near your establishment.

This, of course, fails to take into account how the consumer who just spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $50K to $100k will feel  about having ads served into his auto environment. I expect you can guess: ("Or, Mr. Smith, you can buy the ad-free model for $125k...").

And this underscores a big problem we have in the marketing business, thinking that because we can do it, we should. The usual rationalizations — like that the ads will "improve the user experience because they will be more appropriate" or "the spots will be so entertaining, the driver will have an orgasm" — are complete bullshit and are figments of the ad industry's wishful thinking.



Without reviewing the litany of ways that consumers are bombarded by ad messages every day, you have to wonder if anyone at any level in this business stops and asks, "how would I feel about this as a normal person, whose compensation is not directly tied to coming up with yet more technology and places to serve ads?"  

If you listen carefully, the consumer tells you. A new Sprout Social study finds that 60% of consumers are annoyed with how brands conduct themselves in the social space. YouGov research shows that in both the U.S. and U.K., between a third and a half of online news users use software that blocks the most popular forms of display advertising. And that "consumers expressed feelings of fatigue and distrust."

An Associated Press and Context Based Research Group report finds "there is just too much of it. It seems that if an ad can be served somewhere, it will be, whether consumers want it or not. And how does this leave consumers feeling? Taken advantage of."

Basically, consumers have a victim mentality about advertising now. They feel like they are being stalked.

At the same time, I can find scores of reports that say when consumers get an ad they think is appropriate for them, served in a place where they expect it (think print or TV), where they understand the content/value exchange, their opinion of adverting moderates from loathing to mere annoyance.

Yes, serving ads in toilet stalls is clever. So are electronic billboards that change their message to what they think I might like as I walk by, etc., etc. — but they are all considered individually by the inventor, the martech company, the investor and the agency — and not as another image on a fabric that looks increasingly to the consumer like a Lumascape diagram.

Some cable news nets have come late to this understanding and are in the process of cutting back on the number and length of their ad pods. Some of the more annoying, interruptive ad units are evaporating from digital screens. That is a start.

But a better beginning is stopping to ask, "How will consumers feel about this in the context of their overall relationship to advertising?"

2 comments about "Advertising: Stop And Consider The Consumer's Perspective".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Mani Gandham from Instinctive, August 19, 2016 at 5 p.m.

    Well said. This industry really needs to realize that the consumers are the most important part of this whole equation, without them nothing else matters. It's time to pay attention to the human experience.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, August 22, 2016 at 9:56 a.m.

    The cable channels that received a good deal of publicity for "reducing" the amount of ad clutter in their content actually did so on only some of their shows and not at all to the extent supposed. On the other hand, the "barrage" of digital ads that follow a consumer who buys something online or can otherwise be "targeted using "data" by what he/she does digitally is beginning to be a real problem. An increasing number of people I know agree with George and feel as if they are being "stalked". That's not a positive situation for advertisers, however, it is unlikely that such stalking will be reduced as each advertiser is concerned only sbout its own sales success, not the mental welfare of consumers in general. Some unifying entity with the clout to make it stick must take the leadership role----probably by making such "stalking" an opt-in or opt-out choice by consumers, whether advertisers like it or not.

Next story loading loading..