Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 8, 2010 2:59 PM

Advertisers Are Doing It Wrong

Don't get too caught up in the extravagance of brilliant creative and leading edge advertising. It turns out consumers have no idea what we're talking about.

Marketing professionals often forget what we really do: our main focus it to sell a product, brand or service. It begins and ends right there. Well, according to a recent study from the Council for Research Excellence, we're not doing a very good job at it. The news item, It's Not Just Age; ¾ of Americans Have Found TV Commercials Confusing, from MediaPost's Research Brief came out a couple of hours ago and the results should surprise (no, shock!) you:

"75% of Americans have found a commercial on TV confusing. 21% often find commercials on television confusing, while 55% say that TV commercials are not very often confusing. Just 14% say they never find commercials on television confusing, and 11% do not watch commercials on TV."

How can they buy from you if they don't understand what you're selling?

Run some quick math here: 21% find the commercials often confusing and 11% do not watch commercials. That's 32%. That makes the classic John Wanamaker line, "half of my advertising works, I just don't know which half," more scientific fact than comical turn of the phrase. You may also think that because there are so many new media choices that perhaps the relevance of television advertising is not as important as it once was.

You would be wrong.

Here's another staggering stat from the Research Brief news item: "TV advertising and program promotions reach 85% of adults daily. Viewers typically see 26 advertising or promotional breaks, at an average of two minutes and 46 seconds per break, accounting for 73 minutes each day." While it's easy to get lured into the frequency of messages that people see, take a re-read of that stat: 85% of adults daily are reached through TV advertising and program promotions. While we should never compare online advertising to TV advertising (they are two very different and distinct media), think about how far and deep TV advertising still burrows.

Why can't we get it right?

What are we doing so wrong with advertising? Hasn't it evolved? Some of it could be considered art (some of it has even been made into coffee books and some of it is highlighted in the same way the Nobel Peace Prize is through major award ceremonies). We celebrate our creative prowess and we raise a glass to increased sales and growing corporate margins, but what's happening beneath the surface? While there are minimal differences when you look at the age or level of education, the problem still seems systematic. Advertisers are not being clear in what they want consumers to do.

Don't forget the role of advertising in your marketing mix.

Marketers don't like doing simple things because they feel like a simple message may mean that the work they do is simple or easy. That's not the case. Never forget that if you have an opportunity to be on someone's mind, you must clearly and definitively let them know why you are there. It reminds me of the classic Jeffrey Gitomer (author of The Sales Bible) line: "I put myself in front of people who can say 'yes' to me." Brands often forget that when they are in front of people, the idea is to get them to say "yes" to them... quickly and effectively.

What's your take? Why are consumers so confused by advertising?

By Mitch Joel