Advertising Age – Caught in the Clutter Crossfire: Your Brand:
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Somewhere between 254 and 5,000 is a number that represents just how many commercial messages an average consumer gets each day. Attempts to beat clutter only end up yielding more of it, a bitter irony bound to have dire consequences for a business already struggling with questions of relevance and effectiveness. There’s no consensus on it, but just about everyone agrees on two things: It’s way too high, and the industry’s not doing anything to reduce its own overproduction.
That’s our clutter problem — and yours.
I appreciate AdAge’s candor (truly); they are almost as hard on their own industry as we media critics are on advertisers. In particular the article above verifiers my own belief that we give marketers too much credit for forming our attitudes. As the story indicates, there is just too much clutter. How is one to from meaning from this chaos other than, as The Clash would say, to be lost in the super market? This is not to say there other ideological consequences, but rather than position ourselves as victims of marketing abuse, perhaps we have an opening here, a leverage point, if you will.
As one executive quoted in the article states,
“At the end of the day, the ability of the average consumer to even remember advertising 24 hours later is at the lowest level in the history of our business,” said Bob Barocci, president-CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation.
As opposed to this being a problem, I love the situation. However for activists this creates two difficulties. One, to deal with the predicament, the industry will simply create more clutter. Second, how do you spread socially constructive messages in this kind of environment? A PSA would be like a glass of water thrown into Niagara Falls. The solution I think is that more interactive, peer-to-peer media is the solution, not for marketers, but for us activists who want to reach people. If we focus on our own grassroots strategies rather than trying to repeat the corporate model, I think we will ultimately succeed. Look, for example, how much the Internet has transformed national politics. Whereas Dean’s grassroots media efforts flew under the radar of national media, ultimately most candidates are now emulating his 2004 campaign’s approach.
Finally, I have enjoyed Bob Garfield’s “Chronicles of the Media Revolution” in AdAge, and his latest dispatch, “The Post Advertising Age,” is worth a careful read. AdAge also provides a really nice downloadable chart that details a timeline since Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” originally appeared. One choice snip:
Mass media, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. They have a perfect symbiotic relationship with mass marketing. Advertising underwrites the content. The content delivers audience. Audiences receive the marketing messages and patronize the advertisers, and so on in what for centuries was an efficient cycle of economic life. The first element of Chaos presumes the fragmentation of mass media creates a different sort of cycle: an inexorable death spiral, in which audience fragmentation and ad-avoidance hardware lead to an exodus of advertisers, leading in turn to an exodus of capital, leading to a decline in the quality of content, leading to further audience defection, leading to further advertiser defection and so on to oblivion. The refugees — audience and marketers alike — flee to the internet. There they encounter the second, and more ominous, Chaos component: the internet’s awkward infancy.
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