Consumers find advertising a nuisance. It is something infused in them from a young age, from Chris Tarrant leaving a tantalising four minute gulf between them and the right answer, to parents wearily pointing out that a £2.50 magazine was ‘all adverts’ and not worth the money.
Times have changed and brands can now talk to us more frequently and by and large more accurately. Targeting has improved to such an extent that consumers will soon be shown ads based on their facial expression (an invention patented by Microsoft last month). But despite these triumphs, advertising has still not shaken its role as the interrupter, the shoulder tapper or the arm tugger in consumers’ lives.
This week, the BBC reported on activist group PublicAdCampaign who claim that advertising is exploiting public spaces which many people would like to be free from commercial influence. One activist said that he finds “an exasperated public who would like to see less or no advertising at all”.
Curiously though, it is as if the industry propagates this perception. We are now, after all, living in a world of freemium models where we can choose to dispense with advertising altogether, albeit with a healthy cover charge. Festivals have been loaded with sponsors only to be revered for stripping them and Sky + is still gleefully promoting its fast forward feature as a tool to whizz past the pesky commercial breaks.
It is time the industry stopped acquiescing the idea of its work as a complete and utter nuisance? With the endless pop-ups to close, pages to flick through and commercials to fast-forward, sometimes we in the industry need reminding that in doing so we are choosing a work of art that has been dreamed up, designed, debated, tweaked and perfected and brands which provide a real and useful product or service.
If we are to turn the perception of advertising on its head, the battle lies in the hands of not just creatives but also media planners. We have the technology to know when consumers are most receptive to advertising and when they are not. The tide is turning, and it is the industry’s job to convince consumers – and ourselves – that advertising should be noted for the right reasons, and that ultimately, it is then when it is its most powerful.