As a person who has focused his attention on advertising for over 30 years, two current trends continue to prevent many companies from getting better ad results…
1) TV costs remain surprisingly high, especially considering how few people actually watch TV commercials.
As an example, why should any firm pay $230,000 for 30 seconds on NBC’s The Voice, when there are many better ways to advertise or use that money?
The typical commercial break these days is 6-8 spots long, with the addition of network and local station promos, news teasers etc. CBS acknowledges that 50% of their network’s viewers fast forward through those commercials.
The problem is worse than that. Add to that the many people who…
– Change the channel (the average US home has 188 other channels to visit)
– Leave for a snack or bathroom break (common now, because there are fewer breaks between shows)
– Talk, about the show or other matters
– Turn to their smartphones or tablets
DVR penetration in the U.S. now stands at 65%. Those homes have no interest in wasting time on ads, when they can zoom ahead to the show itself. If they are stepping away for a minute, they mute the sound.
Dish TV lets its customers automatically skip through commercials. (It’s odd networks allow them to do that.)
Putting it all together, some say fewer than 15% of the “viewers” are paying any attention to each ad. Which is bad news for the companies paying so much to produce and air them.
Perhaps a consortium of TV advertisers should be formed to lobby the networks for lower rates. But don’t count on ad agencies to start or support that effort, because a major part of their income is a percentage of the dollar amounts they spend (often structured as a 15% discount). The more money firms spend, the more the agencies make. The companies who actually pay the bills, from Ford and Budweiser down to local restaurants and car dealers, should join together and demand major rate decreases.
Online TV watching is growing, but it is not a very effective advertising medium. Ad Age recently wrote “A streaming episode of Food Fighters on NBC.com recently began with a 30-second spot for Verizon and threaded in commercials for Bank of America, Fiat, Amazon, Microsoft, the movie ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ Ford, Pristiq, Subaru, Hotels.com, Old El Paso, Straight Talk Wireless, Bon Appetit Pizza, Total Wireless, Lyrica, Verizon again and other NBC programming.”
That is a lot of ads! Computer, tablet and smartphone users are trying to avoid commercials, as shown by the incredible success of ad blocking apps. Don’t expect them to watch ads, because all they have to do is click on other tabs in their browser while the online TV ads play.
2) Many ads in a variety of media are a waste of money, because they don’t communicate well.
According to various studies, we are exposed to as many as 6,000 advertising messages a day. Thanks to consumer technology, the pace of everything is faster than ever and the entertainment options available have skyrocketed.
In such a whirlwind environment, most ads should focus on getting to the point. Consider IKEA. Its sales of $36 billion / year make it the top furniture seller in the world. Watch its ads at ispot.tv. They make their points directly and effectively. Their print ads are just as good.
At the other end of the spectrum are ads that are all style and no message. Clients should remind their ad agencies: The goal is to increase sales, not vie for awards (Addys and others). Don’t spend 29 seconds being clever and 1 second with the company name or product. In this busy, busy world, should viewers be expected to pay close attention all the way to the end of TV spot?
Some radio ads use the same foolish structure, with 58 seconds of content that is meant to be funny or descriptive of what the store, restaurant etc offers, followed by just two seconds with the store’s location. Listeners who miss those two seconds won’t be coming to the store, because they don’t know where it is. (This may be a moot point, because so many radio listeners “hit the button” as soon as ads start, fearful that a loud man is going to yell at them about incredible deals on new cars, followed by a voice zooming through the fine print at 90 miles a minute.)
Many print ads fail for similar reasons. Should readers have to search a print ad to figure out who is selling what and how to buy that product or service?
Look through your local magazine. You will find at least one full-page ad for a restaurant, casino or resort that features beautiful photography and lush copy…but nothing about where it is located. That is not a good way to bring in new customers. Or you’ll see hospital ads with absurdly long stories about one family, doctor or patient, and the hospital’s name and logo will be in tiny type that is easy to overlook. In truth, the hospital’s name is the most important part of the ad. Why did their agency ignore the fact that people are leafing through the magazine pages, not reading long-winded ads? Again, maybe it was too much focus on winning awards and too little on being effective.
Billboards have under seven seconds before each car passes. The best of them are eye-catching, have large print and a simple message. Every day you pass others with too much text, puzzling messages or other flaws. For all media (including online), companies should seek input from experienced outsiders. The ad agencies and in-house ad people are too partial to their own work to ever say “The ads we made are not especially good.” Outside consultants like Better Group can inexpensively review ads and report back what flaws they spot. Clients can then demand changes to the creative and that will lead to better ad results.
Summary: In this fast-paced world, firms should insist on getting their money’s worth from their ad budget.
1) TV ads should be priced fairly.
2) Ads in all media should focus on communicating clearly and effectively, to increase sales.
3) Ad agencies and in-house ad people cannot be objective about their own work.
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