Newsletter Archive - Research
Not Another Commercial. Please Make Them Stop.
10/19/2006 - We noted several recent articles that highlight how advertising continues to intrude on consumers, even reaching previously untouched corners of our life including novels, hotel shower curtains, school buses and the bellies of pregnant women. Did you know that professional golfer Fred Couples is often followed around the course by a horde of woman paid to wear his sponsor’s name, Bridgestone Golf, virtually everywhere. There are now ad-supported TV screens at gas stations, airports, health clubs, buses, and subways. Wal-Mart has its own network. ABC TV signed with the In-Store Broadcasting Network to promote TV shows in Kroger supermarkets.
Consumers are not only exposed to more ads in traditional media, but also in their new technology such as iPods, cell phones, laptops and video games. And let’s not forget to add the movies, as a recent promotion for the film "Jackass" in which “Number Two” appears on urinal mats when the mat is hit with a stream of, well, you know.
But the sad story for most other media is that the more consumers ignore ads, the more ad marketers seem to want to churn out even more ads back at them. For example, in the 1970’s, the average city dweller was exposed to between 500 to 2,000 ad messages a day. Now, it's closer to 5,000, a day according to the consulting firm Yankelovich. John Greco, president/CEO of the DMA, remarked at the association’s annual DMA06 conference and exhibition being held this week in San Francisco that people are now bombarded with more advertising messages than ever before, from little screens in elevators to printing on fresh eggs. “We may never run out of places to put advertising messages,” Mr. Greco said. “But we are very near to the limits of human ability to absorb them all.”
And don’t think the marketers aren’t noticing their efforts are being ignored. Ad-zapping devices and a decrease in consumer attention spans have created doubts with them about the effectiveness of traditional TV, radio and print ads. In response, marketers have become increasingly invasive. That has lead to increasingly “creative” deals with non-traditional methods with cities, school districts, even individuals to hawk their ads. These public sector entities feel as if they are leaving money on the table if they don't jump in. For example, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, two high schools just sold sponsorship rights to their cafes and the girls locker rooms to Associated Bank. Clearly something has to change.
Understand that the stakes are huge. This year, business and nonprofits will spend $166.5 billion dollars on direct marketing alone. That’s 6% more than last year. As a result, direct marketing-driven sales will reach $1.939 trillion dollars, a 7.4% increase over 2005. According to the DMA’s latest numbers, direct marketing-driven sales now make up a full 10.3% of the U.S. gross domestic product. 7.5% of all U.S. employment is now direct marketing-driven. That translates into 10.5 million jobs.
And it isn’t just advertising that consumers are rebelling against. Now comes word that the refusal rate of consumers not willing to participate in surveys has become such a problem that a number of the nation's top market research executives gathered recently to discuss "opinion fatigue." They were told that 50% of all survey responses now come from less than 5% of the population, and just 0.25% of the population supplies 32% of responses to online surveys. As any researcher will tell you, this isn’t a pretty picture.
Since companies are under more pressure than ever to deliver growing quarterly financial results, the patience to wait on advertising is also growing thin. Search firm Spencer Stuart indicates that top marketing executives have less time than ever to prove their mettle. The average tenure of a chief marketing officer at a major U.S. company has declined to 23.2 months.
Several key trends are emerging, but most importantly for advertisers consumers feel empowered consumers and are fighting back. The best evidence can be found in:
- An astounding 87 million Americans have signed up for the national "Do-Not-Call" registry.
- About one-fifth of consumers use spam and online ad blockers.
- By next year, over 15% of households will be equipped with TiVos and other kinds of digital video recorders which let’s face it – their primary purpose is for skipping over television ads.
Faced with this pressure, emotion, and mounting resistance, marketers will need to find news ways to connect with consumers. “Word of mouth” marketing is the hot new marketing buzz phrase. If successful, it implies that consumers end up doing much of the heavy lifting -- communicating about the products or brands they like (or don’t like) to others.
But no matter what media they use to attract attention to their products or services, shouldn’t advertisers be looking for something more reliable at the point at which a purchase decision is pending? If so, where else can you find as powerful a directional media such as print and/or electronic Yellow Pages for giving that ready to spend consumer the information they are looking for right at the purchase decision point? As Denny Payne of AT&T Yellow Pages noted at recent Kelsey Group event, Yellow Pages as a “directional media stands apart from all the other media clutter.”
Yellow Pages -- we bring buyers and sellers together – period.