Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Powerless To Self Regulate

In the early 1970s as I graduated from college, the average American was exposed to fewer than 500 advertisements a day with a good portion coming from those occupying 15% of each hour of television programming back then.

By 2009, just as I was retiring from a nearly 40-year career in community-destination marketing, Dr. J. Walker Smith quantified the average number of ads to which we are each exposed each day showing it had shot up to 5,000 and many project that this deluge will hit 10,000 within this decade.

It isn’t just commercial television which now fills 25% of each hour with advertising but now multiplied over 100 times more channels that is responsible.

Huge digital roadside billboards that change messages 21,000 times per day make this ad overload even more absurd while their huckster owners argue with straight-faces to passive gatekeepers that blinking that many times should not be disqualified as intermittent which is prohibited.

Studies over time show that the overall effectiveness of advertising has fallen to very near “0” or below for all but a handful of categories.  The average improvement to sales or market share generated by a 1% increase in advertising is a tiny 0.1% according to Dr. Gerard Tellis at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

The analysis also shows that throwing more advertising “weight” at the consumer is futile.

Fortunately, there are many other elements of marketing communication from which to choose that, while not as glitzy or soothing to advertiser egos, have far more credibility with consumers.

The sheer ubiquity of advertising is backfiring and not just on advertisers who still use obsolete media such as outdoor billboards that desecrate communities and roadsides.

Unfortunately, it appears that much of the advertising-industrial complex is either oblivious or, feeling powerless to self-regulate some restraint among peers, just keeps pushing like an addict at each new medium to maximize its “ad load.” 

Few acknowledge or care that there is clear evidence that many advertisers are now turning off many times more consumers than they turn on.

Worse are bottom-feeders who nip at the heels of struggling newspapers, magazines and now broadcast media, hoping to step into the void by someday leasing space and producing their own programming as some companies did at the dawn of the communications age.

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