Are You an ‘Ad Avoider’ or Merely Overwhelmed?

There’s a perfect storm happening. The confluence of user multi-tasking, greater consumer control over media and way too many ads everywhere is making it harder and harder for marketers to reach consumers and get their attention. There’s too much noise and clutter in the marketplace. Many people are overwhelmed and many just want to get away from all the ads.

MediaWeek (via LostRemote) reported on a study sponsored by Microsoft and Starcom that found:

[B]etween 10 percent and 15 percent of adults 17-35 fall into the category of “ad avoiders” i.e. folks that don’t like advertising, and generally find it “annoying.”

The two companies, after conducting a series of intense interview and observation sessions with dozens of self-proclaimed avoiders in Denver and New York, discovered two types: passive avoiders who simply can’t be bothered with ads, and active avoiders, whose message to advertisers is “be good or be gone.”

The active group is more likely to be young, tech-savvy men who deliberately consume media that has no ads, like DVDs and satellite radio. The passive group is comprised of women, often parents, who gravitate to leisure activities that are untouched by ads, such as books or board games.

But “ads are content,” goes the marketer’s refrain. Indeed that’s the genius behind directional marketing/paid search online – providing commercial content that is in fact “relevant” to my query. But paid search is not the future of all advertising. It occupies a critical place but it doesn’t do everything for marketers.

In the new cluttered and chaotic advertising marketplace there are many wacky experiments going on — everyone setting up shop in SecondLife, for example – that are trying to respond to the challenge of “getting attention.” Simultaneously, mindful of the challenges they face, marketers are calling for more targeting and more “accountability.”

If you were wasting half your ad budget before, it may be like 75% now.

iMedia summarizes an interview with TimeWarner CEO Richard Parsons on this subject:

Parsons said he realizes that there’s a proliferation of ways in which people access media but that no one media “is going away. I don’t think any of the new media is going to obsolete, necessarily, the old.” But there will be a diminishing number of people access the content in traditional ways, he said.

As a result, he says Time Warner must “be everywhere you are. It starts with quality content. What we try to do with all of our businesses… is to create quality content and then make sure that there’s a way to move that content to consumers on every conceivable platform.”

He’s saying two things: quality counts and we’re going to take a “carpet bombing” approach to distribution. I agree with the first point and generally with the second — publishers must diversify delivery of content but must do so thoughtfully and not “mechanically.”

I think the keys to making marketing work in this new environment of ad avoidance and media overwhelm involve:

  • Reaching the right audiences when they’re ready (directional media/targeting)
  • Quality content: the “product” must work or deliver as promised
  • Usability: accessing the information/product must be simple and effective
  • Community/social media: the community, especially trusted circles, filters noise but also creates, in some circumstances, “social pressure” around adoption or product use.

This last point is critical.

It’s easier to get my attention if you’ve got the attention of or “sold” someone I trust. People are using each other as filters for efficiency but also to cut through the noise and clutter of all the marketing messages — which have less and less credibility.

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