Philosophy 405: 'Reading' vs. 'Listening' to Advertising

I like to get a little philosophical in regards to advertising from time-to-time. This week, I thought I would pose a creative question for all you media-minds. After all, to be a good media professional you must understand the creative or else you're missing half the strategy.

This week's question is... Do you "Read" advertising or do you "Listen" to advertising?

This may sound rather silly, but it's a good one to ask when you're developing or placing a campaign in any form of media. In a magazine, one could argue, you "Read" advertising. Advertising can become part of the content itself and can engage you almost as much as any article or editorial. In broadcast you "Listen" to advertising as it presents itself to you and tries to capture your attention.

Reading something implies more attention being paid. Reading is an active choice on the part of the consumer. Listening implies a secondary action, a less attentive experience. Listening happens without even knowing it and you can't turn it off. When the ears are in use, the eyes can wander and retain a larger amount of your mindshare, but when the eyes are focused, they become the focal point of our senses.



Reading advertising implies more of an association with content while Listening refers to a passing opportunity that may not acquire your full attention. The traditional metric of an Opportunity-To-See (OTS) is a passive metric while measures such as Length of Interaction, Brand Favorability, Purchase Intent and Actions (CPA) measure levels of engagement with advertising and their residual affect on the consumer.

Additionally, Reading means you are offering something of value to the consumer. Listening means that you are selling to the consumer and they may not be engaged. Overt sales pitches never work. To sell something you must first know what your target audience truly needs. You must engage them and attempt to have a dialogue. Attempt to speak to them and their individual needs.

In our Interactive advertising world, this question is important because you need to understand how to develop the ad units and you need to understand the environment in which they are being placed. For example, most online media people will tell you that sports sites and financial sites are poor places to run direct response campaigns. The reason why is that the user comes to the site for specific information, they get what they are looking for, and then leave. When they do stay, they are engrossed with the content and do not tend to click through on advertising that would force them to leave the site they are currently on. What this means is that any advertising you place on a sports site or on a financial site needs to be Read, not Listened to. It needs to be slightly aggressive, but not force an immediate response. It cannot be passive, as passivity will be ignored on a site of this type. It needs to be content-esque. It needs to provide something of value to the user, and leave a lasting impression.

Does this mean you must have lots of copy in your advertising?

No. For an ad to be Read does not translate to volumes and volumes of copy. It means that it must be viewed in a manner than goes beyond the pure exposure. It must be engaging. It must be viewed in a more detailed manner. It must leave a lasting impression. If it leaves that impression, then the next time it is viewed by the consumer it will be even more effective. It will require less frequency to convey the appropriate message. It will stretch your ad dollars further. It will increase the effectiveness of your campaign.

What this does mean is that you need to develop advertising based on a strategy. That strategy needs to be researched. It needs to be tested. It needs to be well-thought-out and answer the questions of needs and desires from your target audience. If you speak to their needs and desires, then you will acquire their attention and they will "Read" your message rather than just "Listen" to it.

Do you agree or no?

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