Ruskin Slams Ad Industry At ANA Conference, Change Needed
Perhaps it was all fire and brimstone or perhaps it really was the truth but Commercial Alert Executive Director Gary Ruskin Minced no words when he told ad execs at an Association of National Advertisers luncheon yesterday that "most Americans really despise what you do." He also told the audience what we all have known for a long time; we are not loved by people. Poll after poll ranks us right up there with car dealers in terms of trust. Citing yet another study, Ruskin said, "your industry is not yet as unpopular as the tobacco industry." It's not inconceivable that, with the increasing amount of ad-avoidance control people gain, that will happen quite soon.
He had no kind words to say about product placement or buzz marketing either and that's not surprising. The walls between advertising and content have long since disappeared because of media fragmentation which gave people more choice to avoid advertising and because of ad-avoidance platforms like pay-per-view, DVRs, bit torrent, file-sharing and the iPod. It's no surprise that marketers are grasping at straws to regain the control it once had over consumer eyeballs when a three network buy would reach every person in the country.
Even as people gain more ad-skipping control, they also realize that nothing is free. They no marketers are paying for the free content they consume. They hate it but they know they have to deal with it. As it gets more difficult for marketers to reach people, marketers have upped the ante and have unleashed any and all manner of tactics to reach the covetted eyeball even if it means annoying product placement, clandestine viral attempts and outright lying. There is no end in sight. It will not stop. It's heading for a cataclysmic explosion when increased consumer control dovetails with improved metrics which will show no one is seeing ads anymore and all the money is just being wasted. When marketers realize that, they will stop spending and content will no longer have financial support to be created. Consumers, of course, will rebell and demand their free content only to be met with "pay and you can have all you want." At that point, everyone will wish we were back in the media world of the 50's and 60's when everything was orderly and the agreement between marketer and consumer was amicably set in stone.
With the advent of the web, there's really no need for commercial anyway. A marketer no longer has to cram brand and product messaging into 30 or sixty seconds when an unlimited amount of "sell time" is available in the Internet. All that's needed is a few polite NPR/PBS-like "this program brought to you by" billboards interspersed with programming that provide a simple link to more info on the web. After all, all television will become interlinked with the Internet anyway making seamless travel between programming and consumer-demanded advertising.
The biggest problem is advertising overload. It's not that all advertising is hated, People do want to know what's new and different but they don't want to hear about it every second of every day. As you know, Clear Channel has found that less advertising has actually improved its radio ratings. People watch and listen for content, not ads. If there's more content, there's more viewers/listeners. With people's clear understanding that free content is only possible when a paying sponsor is behind it, less advertising in the form of shorter, more directional ads could work. That is, of course, only if marketers realize those shorter ads will have to cost more and realize they will, likely, work better. We could be crazy so feel free to tells whether we are or not in comments.