The Old Excuses Are Wearing Thin

Let's face facts. People who don't want to be bothered by annoying advertising formats don't have to be. Whether it's pop-up blockers, DVRs that skip commercials, or moviegoers simply following a friend's advice to show up at the theater 20 minutes late to miss the commercials, we've got plenty of ways to get around advertising intrusions into our daily lives.

But that doesn't stop many marketers from promoting ever-escalating arms races that force people to adapt to new methods of keeping ads from being rammed down their throats. Direct marketers find loopholes in "Do Not Call" laws, spammers try to fool spam filters. Marketing technology gets upgrades, and then there's corresponding consumer technology upgrades to keep the marketing technology from doing what it was supposed to do in the first place. How can so many people fail to see that this whole process is counterproductive?

We're stuck in the Age of Short-Term Impact, where many marketing decisions primarily hinge on a particular tactic's ability to move product off of store shelves within the current quarter. Very little attention is being paid to the long-term effects of these tactics. There are not enough marketers asking what happens to the 99 percent of people who didn't immediately rush out to the store to buy the marketer's product. Are those people approachable again? Or have they been so inundated with overly intrusive ad formats that they're forever aligned against the marketer's brand?



Look at comments people leave in online communities about brands they dislike. Did many of these brands commit some unforgivable sin when servicing the customer? Some did, but you'll find that many people reacting negatively in consumer forums are doing so because they've been broadcasted to instead of interacted with. There's only so much that consumers can take, especially when technology helps to make indiscriminate broadcasting obsolete.

Advertisers can no longer claim that "spaghetti against the wall" is a viable option for them. Not in an age where we have so many tools that help us find people who are in the right mind frame to be approached by something that's relevant to their lives. We have behavioral tools, contextual relevance, research, declared interest profiles, our own common sense--so many things to help us be more relevant to people and what they're looking for. If used correctly, a commercial message can even be embraced rather than abhorred.

But we have to revise our understanding of what advertising at scale requires. It's no longer about throwing spaghetti. It's using what we know to microtarget messaging and ensure that it's received in a way agreeable to each individual--the right time, place and manner.

I used an analog example in my panel at Ad:Tech a few weeks back. One of my favorite magazines is Guitar Player. When I'm reading it, the ads don't seem like ads. They read more like content, and I spend just as much time digesting the information in the ads as I do with the features in the magazine. All advertising could be like this, if we only had the means by which to gauge someone's mindset. And guess what? We do.

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