Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Form Of Ignorance, I Suppose

A lead-in on NPR prior to the Super Bowl proclaimed that devotion to football just keeps growing.

Actually, public opinion polls show that the percentage of Americans who are football fans peaked eight years ago and has been slipping ever since. Yes, the numbers may have grown, but the percentages haven’t.

Even among the percentage watching the Super Bowl, which peaked two decades ago, only about 35% cite watching the game as a priority.

The average number of fans attending regular season games over the last two or more decades also peaked in 2007.  It’s a very popular sport but “devotion” has definitely not gotten stronger.

The news media may be far more fragmented today than it was in 1990 but that means it has become even more a victim of its own hyperbole.  I am a lifelong football fan, but I idealistically refuse to believe this has anything to do with selling advertising.

A form of ignorance, I suppose.

A nationwide poll of shoppers last October showed that the effectiveness of advertising in general has taken another hit.  Already a negative return on investment since the 1980s, only 4% of consumers rated it most important out of five different influences on the image of a brand.

Nearly 2-in-3 rated it fourth or fifth in importance and 1-in-3 as the least important.  By far, personal experience is the most important influence, 16 times more powerful than advertising.

Another survey last year by Harris found that irrelevant pop-up ads, the oldest form being roadside spam popping up on sticks in roadside forests and the newest of which now pop up on the Internet, are the most annoying to Americans.

More than 7-in-10 are just annoyed.  More significantly for advertisers, 9-in-10 of those who are annoyed take action against the advertiser or medium.  Advertising in general not only has a negative return on investment now but it involves significant reputational downside.

Advertising is plagued by several systemic drawbacks:

  • It is you “yelling” about yourself so it lacks credibility
  • Subjected to 10,000 ads or messages each day, audiences have tuned out
  • The industry is powerless to eliminate obsolete mediums such as roadside billboards
  • Advertisers fail to grasp turn-off ratios and not just for desecration mediums such as billboards
  • In-house marketers seem detached from the sustainability goals of their organizations

This failure of self-control or self-governance exacts a heavy price on society.  Except for billboards, advertising is the model that has supported the creation of a vast amounts of news, sports and entertainment.

It is kept on life-support now by ignorance such as a community recently that spent its entire budget on roadside billboards as a perversion of the concept of wayfinding, enabled, I suspect, by someone crossing the line ethically.

Entrusted with safeguarding their community’s brand, destination marketing organizations that use this form of advertising are instead scarring first and last impressions.  This is the epitome of what has destroyed advertising.

It is a perfect example of the difference between being ignorant and being uninformed as blogged by Seth Godwin yesterday:

“Uninformed is a temporary condition, fixed more easily than ever.

Ignorant, on the other hand, is the dangerous situation where someone making a decision is uninformed and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about his lack of knowledge…

‘Ignorant’ used to be a fairly vague epithet…Today, because it represents a choice, the intentional act of not knowing, I think it carries more weight…”

We must all be on guard against our own ignorance.  For advertisers deploying what once was a useful marketing tool, it is unfortunately much too late.

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