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Advertising Response is Dying (…of boredom)

Advertising response and engagement rates has dived 19% on average worldwide across all mediums and cultures according to a recent study. But the GFC is not only to blame…

I’m a great believer in Advertising as a way of selling product and ensuring your business achieves the key marketing outcomes and performance goals it needs to continue its growth (creating adverts is a big part of how I make my living, so no great surprises there).

So when I read in reputable industry magazines like B and T Australia that advertising engagement rates have died by as much as 27% in the US, it always has me scratching my head a bit.

Advertising, for all its faults and failings is still one of the best (and oldest) ways in existence to promote and market your products and services. In the words of the great (former advertising) writer Indra Sinha: “Advertising is the world’s second oldest profession, and it evolved out of the needs of the oldest.”

(Indra has many criticisms of advertising and marketing, and all of them are very valid. Please remind me to post more about this man later…)

The problem with advertising engagement levels in my opinion is not people spending less due to the GFC as the article suggests.

As far as I’m concerned,  the big reasons advertising engagement levels are down is because agencies and clients are not making engaging advertising.

Marketers seem to be losing their touch when it comes to the art of creative salesmanship. I don’t need to prove this to you, you’re confronted by this fact every day.

Hurl a random dart at any newspaper page and I’ll bet you money it’ll pierce a dry, dull, tedious, self interested, semi-deceptive advert that someone thought would appeal to the average reader, despite it using logic that wouldn’t appeal to the average four year old.

The greater pity is this criticism applies equally to a lot of advertising creative in on-line media. Yahoo and The Australian are two prime examples of websites that permit agencies and clients to insert interruptive executions into their website (for branding messages no less – not direct response messages), instead of treating it purely as a display medium. I haven’t seen any metrics (recently) for this approach so I cannot comment on it’s ultimate effectiveness, but I would be very surprised if the click-through rate is any higher than average, or that awareness levels or message retention levels are any higher over the medium or long term.

(Interruption tactics being used in an interactive medium is a flawed creative premise in my view- it’s like deliberately interrupting a conversation between two individuals to introduce a sales pitch about something completely unrelated to the discussion. The result is not going to be pretty.)

All adverts work hardest when they make the reader feel something. If you haven’t made them feel something, or convinced them of something, then your advert is a waste of space. Next time, use the money for something more useful – like early retirement homes for inept politicians – or hunting down and exterminating everyone who sticks numerals into the middle of a word.

Here’s two masterful examples of creative salesmanship from a company who haven’t forgotten the magic of emotion in marketing. (And a third example from a company that has.)

The first two videos are breathtaking. The maker of a mobile phone decided to prove how great their phone’s built-in camera was by having Aardman Studios make stop-go animations using their product. Aardman first made the world’s smallest stop-go animation using the phone – then they made the world’s largest. They also paid to have “The making of” videos created – to show that it wasn’t a hoax.

Not every company can afford to use Aardman Animation (home to Wallace and Gromit) for their adverts. But you don’t need to spend millions to make great adverts – you just need to have better ideas in your adverts more consistently than your competitors do.

The third video is also for a mobile phone with a great camera – but it takes a far more conventional approach – and it makes for a far less engaging advert. Have a look for yourself and make up your own mind.

And yes – these videos are all for the same phone, commissioned by the same company.  Having such disparate treatments for the same product, released at the same time, is a prime example of what I like to call “commercial suicide” (pun intended).

I’ve a lot more to say on this subject – but that’s another post.

I’ll close this hopefully entertaining rant with a short quote from the original B and T article mentioned above, given by the man who conducted the original survey:

“At a time when CEOs and stakeholders are asking marketing to achieve better results and a better marketing ROI to get more customer demand, a 19% decrease in advertising response is alarming” said Jerome Fontaine, CEO & chief tracker of Fournaise.
“…We also noticed too many traditional marketers lost sight of the fact that the job of their ad campaigns is to generate customer demand for their products / services, not to just look pretty and clever in the media” he added.


…Couldn’t say it better myself.