Chris Moerdyk

Is advertising forcing you to buy things?

2013-08-26 08:38

Every single reader on News24 is a consumer, which means that every single reader - each one of you - is an advertising expert.

Yes you are, because you more than any ad fundi know what appeals to you and what doesn’t.

So, help me out here. Has advertising ever forced you to buy something you don't really want? Of course it hasn't, unless you are a basically weak character completely lacking in self-control and with more money than brains.

But, an even bigger question is what you think of advertising generally?

I have to admit that I think most of it is rubbish.

In my opinion, a lot of advertisers live on a completely different planet to the average consumer.

Outdoor advertising exceptional

Just looking a lot of ads on television and radio particularly, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that the advertisers who dream up a lot of this stuff don't actually listen to the radio or watch TV.

Outdoor is an exception. The standard of advertising on our roadside billboards is quite exceptional and I put this down to the fact that even advertisers can't escape having to commute to and from the office by car with the result that they not only consume outdoor advertising but understand how it works. They also get frustrated when there is so much copy on a billboard that they can't get the message before they flash by. So, they make sure that when they're creating for this medium they don't make the same mistake.

Unlike television advertising.

I don't think the majority of advertisers have any idea how cluttered the media is becoming. And how competitive. How quickly people switch between channels.

How quickly the consumer loses interest in an ad.
Now, more than ever before, it is vital to arrest attention within the first few seconds or risk losing the viewer.

Yet so many of our ads waffle on meaninglessly, lumbering up to a punch line and vague sort of point right at the end.

And something else advertisers don't realise is that their media planning is burst crazy which in turn is insane.

Radio is the worst

With the result that those charming little commercials end up as irritants in no time flat after having been over-flighted in a burst frenzy. The latest fad is to run the same ad in every commercial break in a popular one-hour weekly series. So that by the time the series has reached episode number three, ads have become suicidally repetitive.

Radio of course, is the worst. Here we are still dealing with creative afterthought. If there's a bit of budget left over, tag on a radio spot but don’t spend any money on production.

I would guess that of all the complaints I have about advertising - and we should take it as a warning that these are increasing at a frightening pace - the most common are about banal, stupid, insulting and droll radio commercials.

 If advertisers consumed more media they would realise that women are playing an important role in our economy. Women are making serious business decisions. Yet how many ads, particularly on radio, demean women. Show them up as the stereotype dumb blond bimbo.

This particularly in the financial services sector. I can't tell you how many ads over the past couple of years have brought yells of anger from women who can't believe that a bank or insurance company can purposely produce an ad that insists that only men make monetary decisions and women are still stuck in the kitchen.

I believe it's time for advertisers to insist that their creative people get back into the habit of consuming media other than their own personal and limited choices.

Because there is simply no way one can create a television commercial without actually having to watch television. Quite simply watching videos, DVDs and show reels might be inspirational but doesn't give you even the tiniest inkling of what is going on in the mind of the consumer.

Agencies are like computers

You might have noticed that I have not once mentioned the words "advertising agency" and I have done this for a very good reason.

Yes indeed, ad agencies create ads but ad agencies are like computers - if you feed them crap they will produce crap.

The problem is that South Africa has a desperate shortage of skilled product and brand managers and it is their limited understanding of the consumer psyche and inability to communicate a coherent advertising brief that causes the tsunami of rubbish we see on our TV screen and on the radio.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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