Funny how since leaving the wonderful world of advertising (and having absolutely no regrets doing so) I have found myself ever more interested in it and analytical of it. I notice ads; notice their placement, their relevance, their creative elements and obviously their message. Often times I am struck by either their sheer obstinance or their quality. And I’ve grown increasingly satisfied by the advertising that I’m seeing and its usefulness to me.
Some see advertising as a hinderance or distraction in their daily lives. The fact that there are so many commercials on TV (about 15 minutes of every 60 minute program), or ads in magazines (usually about 50% of the pages in healthy magazines are ads), or billboards, or radio ads, or movie product placements… I expounded upon this somewhat in an older post. Ideally, advertising is all part of a compromise. In exchange for being subjected to advertising, we get to read magazines and newspapers, and get to watch TV and listen to radio for fractions of what it would normally cost if the result production were entirely consumer funded.
But that’s not what I’m interested in discussing here.
I think there should come a day when we no longer simply accept or get over advertising, but actually enjoy it. Advertising, ideally, should add value to the medium and to the overall conversation being taken-in by the consumer. In other words, good ads, in the right places and under the right circumstances, should be able to make the product that it is supporting better than without. Think of a magazine (fashion, wine, home decor, etc.) and how vital many of those ads are to the consumer experience. Probably half the outfits in a fashion magazine are seen in the ads. Sometimes the ads have as much value (have strong creative or photography, or offer messages such as relevant product availability or sales) as the editorial. Beautiful outfits and paint colours add to the experience had by the reader. In the few movies that don’t overdo product placements, real-life products make stories seem more realistic (I’m thinking of the brief period between when a character’s can said “cola” and when a movie was plastered in Pepsi marketing).
The other day, reading the Globe and Mail, I noticed how so many of the ads were for Toronto-based companies, and thus how irrelevant they were to me. I’m not very concerned with a store opening on Yonge Street or tickets for Toronto FC. And then, taking a broader look at the pages in front of me, noticed how one-third of the page was advertising. Sure, they have to pay the bills, I thought, but imagine if each of those ads meant something to me, on top of the quality editorial? There would be real value in this product to me, because not only would I be consuming content, but I would be interacting with and perhaps deciding upon messages given to me by retailers who were supporting my favourite newspaper.
Imagine if we looked forward to the ads as much the stories? How about if we didn’t change the channel as soon as the commercials came on? This sort of experience occurs during the Superbowl: football fans look forward to the ads as much as they do the game (if albeit the commercials are simply for entertainment value and that the entire event’s content and length are overly drawn out). Consider if this was the case for every program we watched.
We live in a commercial and market-driven society, and like it or not, we make our livings from it as well as consume it. Perhaps we could call a truce with the media from which we consume our news and entertainment and in turn they could provide real value to both us (their audience) and their financiers.
If marketing could become more wholesome and inspired, and if agencies and advertisers could be more considerate of how their products work in conjunction with their appropriate media (and not so worried about trends such as non-traditional media buys) then I think consumers would feel more engaged and valued. Consumers themselves would get more value out of the media they consume and advertisers would see more return on their investment. Advertising ought to have a responsibility to be relevant. Now that’s a heck of a compromise.