Doug Garnett’s Blog


Despite Claims, Web Communication Is No More Respectful Than Traditional Advertising

Massive misperceptions lead industries into poor choices. But industry politics make people hesitant to call out those mis-perceptions – sometimes for fear of losing future work; at other times because its easier to go along with the crowd; and most often because it’s hard to find the courage to remind the world the sky is blue when “everyone” else says it’s orange.

Today’s topic of untruth is found in this line from a recent guest article on Media Post:

“In TV, you are forced to stop enjoying content in order to watch several minutes of ads. On the Web, the ad experience is more integrated and more targeted.”

Does anyone really believe this? Any honest look will tell us that the web may be the noisiest ad environment in history of mankind. And while it may be targeted, that doesn’t mean it’s any less offensive.

Web advertising regularly interrupts our enjoyment of content. On the commercially very successful HuffingtonPost, it’s random whether a new page you visit will pop down several screen inches then back up seconds later as aggressive top of the page banner ads expand.

On most news sites, pop up windows are a constant irritation. On more technologically advanced websites, ads expand and contract (apparently randomly) as you move your cursor around the page. If we choose to view a web video, we have to put up with pre-roll ads. And now we even have to fight new types of banner ads that take over the page we’re viewing and force us to click out of them or wait for them to finish.

I’d sure love to find the web utopia that guy was writing about. It sounds a whole lot better than the web we have.

Commercial messages even interrupt our enjoyment of social media. Friend a company and you’ll have to put up with their feeds on Facebook. (But isn’t Facebook most heavily used for, well, human friends? It is, after all, a social medium.)

But even worse, in social sites, companies design viral video’s to sucker people into friending their commercial endeavor, then bombard them with commercial messages. Ah, the fundamental dis-honesty of new media.

And if you have Gmail (or similar “free” services), commercial messages regularly interrupt your privacy. I went to a Google presentation here in Portland recently. The presenter proudly discussed how, after he had moved here and emailed with his wife about their car, their GMail immediately featured ads from the local auto dealer. Yikes. I think we’ve finally found Eric Schmidt’s “creepy” (and people at the tables around mine thought so, too).

Are online advertisers desperate? This aggressive interruption on the web suggests that advertisers are desperately searching for impact. And the latest news confirms they might be.

Google is desperately searching for TV ad revenue because their other online sources just don’t have enough growth to make the stock market happy. And just last week Best Buy announced that they were returning to advertising on TV because they hadn’t been able to drive their mass business from the web.

So what about this whole issue of respect? I strongly advocate respect – real respect. But the respect that matters most is the respect between the company and their consumer. Over the past 20 years I find that agencies have developed an intense disrespect for their true consumer. And I believe clients are beginning to realize how ineffective their ads have become as a result.

Many ad agencies or creative teams no longer believe consumers want to know about products and the information needed to make intelligent choices as they shop. Instead, agencies focus first and foremost on “entertainment” and end up delivering little consumer value. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the oldest of the old media or the freshest of the new, this type of advertising will offend the consumer.

And what about the web? Truth is that the web should be much more powerful than it has become. It’s only by challenging these fallacies that we can make it so.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved.

Categories:   Advertising, Business and Strategy, Communication, Consumer research, Digital/On-line, Human Tech, Media, New media, Retail marketing, Social Media, Video


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