A fortnight ago, Monday’s Media Guardian (25.06.07) carried a special supplement on “outdoor media” with a subtitle, “Digital Vs Poster – The transformation of Outside Advertising”.

According to this supplement, the vitality of the outdoor advertising echo-system is allegedly being fuelled by several factors such as:

  • the number of individuals spending more time out-door during the day has increased over 51% over the last 10years (Belinda Archer)
  • the fragmentation of television audiences (Catlin Ftizsimmons) and,
  • the integration digital & mobile enabled technologies to create more engaging and interactive experiences (Catlin Ftizsimmons)

Although the face of advertising has changed over the decades, the general mind-set of the advertising industry remains the same: “interruption based advertising”.

traditional advertising is striking out big time
There was no editorial with regards to consumers’ lifestyles, long working hours, work pressure, fatigue and the work-life balance, and how these have an impact on energy levels and attention.

The experience of sitting in an underground train, be it in New York City, London, or Caracas (Venezuela) is no different from any other. How many “zombies” have you seen sitting either plugged into their music-systems, reading, dozing off, or simply on “standby” waiting for their particular stop? How would you divided the ecology of an “underground wagon”, and the relationship to a potentially attentive advertising audience?…I have had first hand experience, and it’s amazing to see the similarities.

Now fit advertising within this consumer centred life-work context and the fact that according to sources we are exposed to between 1500-10,000 a day, and what do you think is going to happen to attention and recall?

That’s not all though. Continuing a little longer with human factors, advertisements have become messengers to a new phenomenon, too much choice, which according to “Barry Schwartz”, author of “The Paradox of Choice, Why more is less", is creating a lot of stress within the decision making process – that ultimately is to culminate in a purchase. Evidence can be seen on British TV advertisements of website aggregators / comparison websites that have sprung-up to assist prospective consumers with making a final choice.

In this environment where creative meets technological advertisement delivery vehicles, and channel integration, the following observations made on new products and services will definite ring true within advertising: “To exploit new opportunities, managers must know significantly more than they currently do about how customers think and act”
(source: speech delivered to the marketing science institute, Boston MA, 25 April 2002, by George S. Day, The Geoffrey T. Boisi Professor of Marketing and the director of the Mack Center for the Management of Technological Innovation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania).

To increase advertising effectiveness, the industry will have to put the consumer at the centre of the experience by appealing to their values, reward systems, and the way the brain is wired.

If the advertising industry does not get its act right with regards to understanding how consumers are wired, then 80% of the new product offerings will continue to fail. The persistence of market research with the use of tools such as focus groups that continue to dig into consumer opinion by appealing to the conscious and rational part of the brain, which only forms part of 5% of our cognition, will continue to waste vast amounts of resources. The other 95% of the unconscious part of the brain is where real insight can be gathered about how customers really think, according to Gerald Zaltman, Professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School, Fellow at Harvard University’s interdisciplinary Mind, Brain, Behaviour initiative, and co-founder of the research consultancy Olson Zaltman Associates. His customers include: coca-cola, Microsoft, Bank of America, Motorola, Procter & Gamble and IBM. And these insights can be seen in his book tilted, “how customers think, Essential Insights into the mind of the market”.

“Something’s in the air”, whether it be on broadcast or on WIFI, consumers have embraced technologies to block advertising. Will the advertising industry wait for the two ad-blocked channels/mediums to transform into the three apocalyptic ad-blocking channels/mediums?...will the industry strike out three times?

The bell has tolled already with ad-blocking technologies such as the first incarnations of TiVo, as a forewarning that consumers will embrace technologies to block annoying ads. It has tolled for the second time with ad-blocking technologies and software (explored within a paper which is available on request from Tracy Osterle a colleague at my former employer TechnoPhobia) on the web. Will this resistance come to outside media for the third?

There are two active social movements whose remit is to deride and undermine corporate advertising: Adbusters, and Space Hijackers.

Adbusters tackles advertising with spoofs that undermine the advertisers’ claims and uncovers either “corporate skeletons from their closets” or highlights health/environmental issues related to the brand and the product/service. Space Hijackers have been described as “…a group of urban high jinksers using extremely creative methods to reclaim some public spaces from corporate noise…” (source: Computer Arts Projects Issue 99. pp. 29-32). Clashes have been documented, including corporate advertising incursions into fake “Urban street Style” advertising.

To conclude, it is un-arguable that advertising outdoors will continue to obtain what the industry deems as reasonable results and ROI. The interruption-based advertising paradigm can’t let go of clever memorable advertising as exposed by agencies such as Fallon, the branding and campaign advertising agency, which has created good ROI for its clients. But this approach will continue to delivery bottom line peaks and troughs, which are producing marginal results. And who knows we may even go too far, such as the invasiveness showcased by the New York Times article, “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad”, January 15, 2007 (By Louise Story). From advertising on eggs to “small Big Mac burgers flying past; when people stepped on the Ad, the burgers bounced away from their feet”. And elsewhere advertising is being put on flocks of sheep, and sinking all the way to the bottom with “Ass-vertisement”…



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