What Ads Say (and how consumers hear them)

March 09, 2012 | Tom Fishburne
What Ads Say (and how consumers hear them)

This cartoon is inspired by one of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons, showing two panels of a dog owner scolding his pet to stay out of the garbage. The first panel illustrates “what we say to dogs”. The second panel shows “what they hear”, with every word (except the dog’s name) replaced by “blah blah blah”.

Consumers have this same type of selective hearing. They are increasingly equipped to tune out marketing messaging in every medium, particularly classic television advertising. A Deloitte study showed that 86% of television viewers regularly fast-forwarded ads.

Some advertisers respond to this phenomenon by designing ads to be watched at 12 times normal speed (featuring lingering shots of brands, logos, and characters).

I think a better takeaway is to create advertising so good that viewers choose to watch.

Last month, TiVo hosted the Third Annual “Battle of the Consumer Electronics Brands at CES”. They tracked second-by-second fast-forward rates for different brands. TiVo SVP Tara Maitra framed the winners this way, “In the age of on-demand television viewing it’s not necessarily the consumer technology brand who runs the most ads that’s the winner in terms of capturing eyeballs — it’s the one who finds a better way to keep consumers from picking up the remote and moving on to other content.”

In other words, increasing the quality of the content is more important than increasing the media spend. It raises the bar on advertising to create better quality content, content that passes the “fast forward test”.

I think marketers need to regularly ask themselves if their marketing passes the “fast-forward test”. Because that’s the evaluation that consumers are making, remote in hand.

For more of Tom's posts, visit his site - marketoonist

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