Clickbait used to be the hallmark of sites like BuzzFeed and The Daily Mail, but apparently The New York Times is not above it, with a headline the other day that read "The Advertising Industry Has a Problem: People Hate Ads."
Never in the history of the ad business have consumers ever said in surveys anything otherthan that they hate ads — although they actively search for ads that promote sales or mull them over for ideas to redecorate or improve hobbies or bodies or gardens.
When consumers are actively in the market for, say, a new car, they cannot FIND enough ads to gather yet more ideas about makes and models. They sing jingles from ads and quote ad copy when trying to be clever at dinner parties. They also say advertising has no impact on their buying decisions — but somehow reach for brands that seem to linger just beneath their conscious thought.
The Times story was just a mash-up of all the things that already worry the ad industry like agency consolidation and/or structure, audience fragmentation, competition from consultants, automation, and the throw-weight of Facebook and Google, etc. Utterly nothing new.
Although the Times was quoting a collection of “studies” and industry figureheads to present the case for a “crisis” in advertising, with just a slight bit of additional effort it could have listed all the ways that advertising is working (and paying for much of what the public consumes in the way of media and entertainment). The writer might have even observed that ad income at the Times is probably paying most, if not all, of her salary.
At least she didn’t dig out the usual tripe about the ad industry ranking somewhere between mass murders and pedophiles in terms of public trust.
And by the way, this is not just a problem for electronic media: Everybody hates scent strips in magazines and stickers slapped on the front of their newspapers. I am trained to hit a new preset on my car radio before a commercial can get three words out (am aiming to get it down to a single word without driving off the side of the road). I don’t like banners pulled behind planes at the beach. I’m not a fan of signage in stadiums, projected logos, or ads before movies in theaters.
The media side has made its share of mistakes, with TV ad pods that drone on endlessly and digital ad units that make visiting certain sites a living hell.
While you can bitch all you want about how crappy digital creative is, it pales beside the dregs tossed at the public during the Super Bowl at $5 million or $6 million per 30 seconds. And this is stuff that’s supposedly the best we can do.
But all is not wrong with our industry. There's little question that since broadband and mobile matured (and quants starting looking over the shoulder of their CMOs), the ad industry has been trying to redefine itself to meet the changing media habits of consumers.
But where’s the love for search, perhaps the most successful ad platform in the history of the world? Or audience-targeted TV commercials that eliminate much of the waste of traditional demo-based, upfront buying? Or interactive ads that walk consumers down the purchase funnel?
Perhaps the NYT ought to reconsider a full-time ad columnist again. At least they would understand the industry.