Having been in commercial media most of my life, my interest in advertising is more than passing.
When you watch television, you probably think of commercials as interruptions to the programs. But traditional television companies think of programs as interruptions to the stream of commercials.
We’re all aware of the devious means various companies now employ to learn every little detail about us, so as to better target us for their ad pitches. It is truly fiendish. In my estimation, persons at those companies (and spammers, and robocallers) justify a revival of the pillory in the public square.
(Actually, that would be a generally useful development in other areas as well. It seems a fair enough penalty for public urination; for instance, and had it been in effect here, entering the front doorway of The Athens NEWS these many years would often have been pleasanter. Of course, it’s moot now that the paper’s offices have moved. It’s unlikely anyone will drive all the way to Johnson Road to pee.)
Where were we? Oh, yes. There have been many developments, some quite shady, in the advertising field these last few years. But while the geniuses have cooked up some new ways of insinuating themselves into our lives, they’ve been too clever by half and have overlooked some obvious things.
The most apparent of these is something that I think is within the ken of a moderately bright 4-year-old: If your advertisement is irritating and annoys the person viewing or hearing it, that person is less likely, not more likely, to do business with you.
This phenomenon, that advertisers think it’s okay if we hate them, is present especially in free streaming television. As mentioned previously, this summer I undertook to see if paid satellite television could be replaced by free streaming services. (Initially, I included the pay services Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video in the mix, but have now dropped the first two and have kept the third only because I do some business with Amazon and the company’s free two-day shipping more than makes up for the cost of the included television service.)
The experiment largely has been successful. While my life has suffered, if that’s the word, the lack of channels where people are hollering at each other about politics (and calling it “news”), I’ve found satisfactory and often enlightening replacements for just about everything DirecTV had to offer. People I know who have cut the cable report similar results.
There has been, though, one major irritation. When switching to some channel (particularly one offering news), the screen will usually go blank for a few seconds. Then there will be a notice: “Your program will begin after this message.” “This message” is more often than not a Progressive Insurance ad for an unspecified restaurant in an unspecified town which restaurant offers tasty Béarnaise sauce.
Let us set aside for now the fact that modern advertisements often fail to focus on what is being sold. This phenomenon began, to the best of my recollection, with the Wang Laboratories commercials. The computer company did not discuss its computers but instead offered video in which it seemed as if the cameraman had been stricken by a seizure of some sort. (Wang Laboratories, by the way, is no longer with us.) Instead, let’s focus on the ad placement.
When tuning to a news station, one usually is in a bigger hurry than he might be, say, going to on-demand archives of “The Joey Bishop Show,” so the advertiser already has a steep hill to climb. When the advertisement is one seen by the same viewer in exactly the same circumstances 30 times before, any hope of gaining a customer is lost. I would now pay extra to get my insurance elsewhere. Yes, I suppose there’s some value in the name recognition. I certainly remember the name “Progressive.” I also recognize the name “anthrax,” and take measures to avoid it.
My complaint must be moderated by the fact that I’m receiving something I want – television without having to pay for it – in exchange for enduring the commercial message. But we’re considering the effectiveness of the advertisement. Is there a way to deliver the message that finances the content without enraging the viewer?
The ad agencies will have to work that out. On television of all sorts (and radio), linear interruption is the nature of the beast. They’ve tried putting ads on the screen during programs, and it pleased (and pleases) no one except the billing department.
The Progressive company, I think, would be better off advertising in the newspaper. Yes, that’s a self-serving statement; still, I’ve worked in print, radio and television, and here I am.
It was through an advertisement in this very newspaper that several years ago I obtained a good and well-paying job. I was able to study the available position’s details as given in the ad, rather than try to catch it all on the fly in 15 or 30 seconds.
You might suppose that there aren’t job openings advertised on television, but you’d be in error. One of the few non-Progressive ads on streaming teevee describes job openings at the Kroger warehouse near Columbus, with starting wages of nearly $19 per hour. I’d tell you more, but it flew past. So I don’t have contact information, as I would (and so would you) had they advertised in the newspaper.
That’s at bottom the strength of newspaper advertising and the weakness of broadcast commercials: in a newspaper you can easily describe what’s on offer and why someone would want it. In over-the-air or streaming ads, it’s all flash and noise, jokes that are no funnier on the 100th viewing than they were the first time around, and often nothing more than a break to visit the refrigerator or the bathroom.
Newspaper ads are there for you to read or not, at your leisure. If you ignore them, they do not shout at you or keep you from continuing to read something else. And when you do have an interest in them, they don’t disappear after a few seconds.
This newspaper used to run house ads with the headline, “The Athens NEWS brings results,” and they were, and are, true. Streaming (and broadcast) ads can’t always say the same.
Well, unless angry viewers count as results.