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.

by Steve Hall    Jan-26-06   Click to Comment   
Topic: Industry Events, Online, Opinion, Radio, Television   

Enjoy what you've read? Subscribe to Adrants Daily and receive the daily contents of this site each day along with free whitepapers.



It's about time someone in the adver-crap industry was able to take such a frank stance as this! He needs to go a bit further, though...

People don't like advertising - yet the advertising industry is constantly trying to bother people. On "free" content such as the radio, I guess that is your domain. Fine. However, I pay for my cable connection, and when I do so, I don't want to watch commercials. Incredibly, there are entire channels devoted to commercials - and you get the privilege of seeing this advertising junk for the low subscription price of $55 a month (cable subscription rate in my area).

Frankly, if I'm paying for something, I expect advertisers to stay the heck off of it, because advertising is generally garbage. It takes time away from the purpose for which I have allocated my time. I don't turn on my TV hoping for an offer from the makers of Vagisil. I don't get on my favorite messageboard hoping to be offered a home loan consolidation, and I sure as hell didn't get my internet connection to have my bandwidth eaten up by "rich media" (read: bulky bulls*it) advertising. If ad-blocking causes these sites to go down, it's their loss, not mine - the internet existed just fine without Doubleclick for years, and if they went away tomorrow, it'd still be fine. If my "TiVo-ing" TV commercials is putting a hole in someone's pocket, sucks to be them - if what I pay per month isn't going to cover the three shows I watch, it sounds like the problem is on their end - stop blowing your money on crappy new shows that last 3 episodes, stop paying ridiculous amounts of money to mediocre TV actors, and get your own houses in order.

Simply put: the fault is not with the fed-up consumers. It's with the advertisers trying to "up the ante" as you call it, trying to annoy me further. If you people are aggrevating John Q. Public enough that he's willing to blow $200 on a ReplayTV and $12 a month to subscribe to XM radio, and online adblocking components are being downloaded at an exponential rate, and you still haven't gotten the hint that you need to reform, then I look forward to the day where you all close up shop and get "real" jobs that don't involve mulling over how best to annoy someone, and actually serve a measurable and consumable purpose.

Posted by: Hoqenishy on January 26, 2006 12:27 PM

And to answer if you're crazy or not, I guess it depends on your paradigm - are you willing to go into marketing realizing that what you're doing is inherently bothering people, and to mitigate that as much as possible? Are you willing to stop treating advertising as "pump-and-dump", where you milk something for all it's worth and drop it once people figure out how to circumvent it?

If so, you're not crazy. You're a pioneer.

Advertising, first of all, does need to sharply decline. On TV, I'd say at least 50%, where no more than 9 minutes per hour of people's time is "wasted" on commercials, because as entertainment viewership goes up, it starts to become quite evident that for the amount of time per week you're watching TV, you may be blowing 2-3 accumulated hours on commercials. Radio... I don't even know if that's salvageable, especially after having subscribed to XM and felt the glory of not having local car dealers pretending I give a damn about their stupid sales. Internet advertising needs a reformation big-time or else your Google shares are going to plummet to whatever minimal amount Yahoo shares are currently worth, as people get fed up with having their bandwidth wasted on greedy site owners trying to "milk it for all it's worth", and online advertising agencies abusing technology to their own half-assed ends.

So I guess the question is, are you willing to commit? Are you willing to make a better investment and settle for less short-term return in exchange for a more favorable industry impression and longer-term results? Are you willing to actually do your homework on reaching people, instead of just throwing a blaring commercial out in the media - equivalent to pissing in a public pool? Are you willing to accept the fact that consumers generally aren't going to want you on the air, and instead of trying to barrage them with more annoying stuff, that you just make peace with that and target the audience who is interested?

Basically, are you willing to do a 360? If so, then you're not crazy.

Posted by: Hoqenishy on January 26, 2006 12:55 PM


Point well taken. But you have a very narrow view.

Thing about what the economic ramafications be of a world without advertising. I think it would look a lot like communist russia.

Why are you so mad?

Posted by: Adman on January 26, 2006 1:02 PM


Come out of the closet and maybe you'll mellow out a bit

Posted by: Aderra on January 26, 2006 3:20 PM

alas, hoqenishy is right. a 360 is required by our industry. and he/she is not mad merely passionate. adman, i presume you visited Russia during the communist regime. what did it look like?

Posted by: Dr. Hans Akkerman on January 26, 2006 5:00 PM

Hmm...Hoqenishy, do you own an mp3 player? How did you hear about it? What about a mobile phone? How did you choose your carrier and equipment? Even if it wasn't through 30" spots, I'm sure word-of-mouth or other consumer-generated marketing was involved. Would your feelings about advertising change if 100% of messages were relevant to your needs and interests? The industry doesn't need a 360 - it just needs more accountability.

Posted by: Peter Kim on January 27, 2006 9:04 AM

Sure, I own an MP3 player... I've had one since waa-aaa-aay before they were mainstream consumer electronics - it cost me $500 dollars, and it had a 32 MB soldered-in memory card. Ever since then, I've chosen what kind of MP3 player to get based on going to Google, typing in "MP3 player", and looking on independent consumer review websites for their satisfaction ratings. I aggregate these scores together, go to several different local electronics shops that undoubtably have them, and buy from the one that gives me the cheapest deal.

No, I don't own a cellphone.

If 100% of advertising messages were still catered to each individual's needs and interests, the current rate of "saturation" would still be too much, simply because I'm not interested in hearing about things to buy for 20 minutes on the hour on TV, or on the radio, or seeing 50 billboards for my interests, or having flyers taped to my door or car. I'm interested in watching the programs that I pay for cable to see. I'm interested in listening to music that I tuned in to hear. I'm interested in seeing wide-open countrysides, instead of gargantuan signs for "BUY THIS"! I believe the advertising industry does need a 360, or else you're going to get more backlash, and advertising is going to become a lot less profitable as companies realize that they're overpaying for underperforming stuff that nobody cares about or pays attention to.

Let's pretend for a moment that you rent an apartment from me for a pretty good deal. You move all your stuff in, and that night, I come and knock on your door, and ask to use the bathroom. You dubiously agree to it, so I take a leak really quick and head out. The next night, the same thing happens. After a month, I'm not only using your toilet, but I'm also taking a shower. One month later, you come home to find that I've pissed all over the seat, used your towel, left the water running, and all the lights on. When you come to me in protest, saying "This wasn't in the contract! I didn't pay to get this garbage! It's not in the contract!", I reply, "Of course it's not in the contract! It's implied! You're getting this apartment for such a good deal, that you ought to be okay with just a little inconvenience! After all, I own this place, and if you don't like it, just go through the huge trouble of packing and move out!" Now, imagine further that every apartment was like this. Wouldn't you get fed up and angry, too?

Well, that's how us consumers feel when we buy a TV, purchase a $50-dollar-per-month subscription, and then have you advertisers "piss all over the seat" with 20 minutes of useless junk that we don't care about. You suggest "accountability", but it would be woefully inadequate unless a 360 was made in advertising-industry paradigm that, instead of finding new niche ways to torture, annoy, and lie to people, that you exercise restraint as an industry. That really does mean that "less is more". Less billboards, less commercials, less "assaultive marketing" like LCD monitors that show commercials during a fill-up or subscriptions that put you on every godforsaken junkmail list on the continent. Less!... or don't, and have consumers continually push back against you and tune you out until you're out of a job!

Posted by: Hoqenishy on January 27, 2006 5:08 PM

"However, I pay for my cable connection, and when I do so, I don't want to watch commercials."

But, it seems you've made your cable-provider agreement and you're paying for things their way, eh? This is how cable COMPANIES operate, not just the broadcasters that offer you FREE television for the price of including the commercials. It's good to express yourself/vent (and make salient points, too) after you've paid the $55 bill for the access that you have personally chosen. You have already supported the pay-for-ads method of delivery into your home.

Don't worry, :30 TV ads are on the outs anyway. Please do watch PBS - using your purchased cable signal if you like...It seems to be your closest option. Their commercials are isolated from the programming so they can be ignored more easily.

Posted by: mordacious on January 27, 2006 6:32 PM