Julian Major (pictured below) is a consumer insights and market research professional. He’s also the head of consumer insights at Visit Victoria. In this guest post, Major dissects Professor Mark Ritson’s recent claims that “people hate ads” and finds himself vehemently in the “disagree” camp…
As is usually the case, I highly enjoyed Mark Ritson’s entertaining read on why ‘people hate ads’.
Marketers are a highly unrepresentative group of individuals. We all operate in our own ‘bubble’ which skews our view of the world, but this a huge issue for marketers, considering what they are meant to produce. Below is one of my favourite charts that shows how the world of marketers is so drastically different from the ‘average’ person.
Advertising is not as important to consumers as it is marketers. That is a valuable and important message that marketers must understand. And there is a salient point embedded in Ritson’s article; if we don’t understand how consumers see advertising, we risk getting it all horribly wrong.
But do people really hate advertising?
Ritson’s own evidence via Kantar does not say people “hate” advertising, rather a large proportion of the market “dislike it generally”. A decent proportion actually admit to liking it generally. That’s largely my experience in testing and tracking advertising.
My personal view would be that people’s attitudes towards advertising ranges from annoyance to ambivalence. Consumers are also fantastic at filtering out the thousands of advertising messages that they are exposed to each day. If we really did “hate” advertising with a passion, it would send us all insane. But we all have bigger issues to deal with in life compared to advertising.
And while few will say they “love” advertising, we can all remember specific ads that makes us feel good, laugh or learn something new. The latest Westpac brand ad is a great local example.
But why does this matter? Is “hate” versus “generally dislike” just semantics?
Well, again, if we do not understand the role that advertising plays in people’s lives, marketers can produce bad work. I recently saw a response to Ritson’s article that suggested that because people hate advertising, we should use more product placements instead of ‘traditional’ advertising, or use strategies that are less invasive. Now, I am not suggesting that product placement strategies are bad, but if we convince ourselves that consumers hate advertising, then we risk jumping to the conclusion of “why bother”, or that we should create advertising that just does not get in the way. But cutting through and gaining attention is a fundamental principle of advertising effectiveness.
We also need to have a more nuanced understanding of how advertising fits into consumers life’s. We know advertising receives different levels of attention, depending on the channel it is put into. When we watch television, we largely accept that advertising is part of the experience. When we are scrolling through social media, we largely do so out of boredom. When we are on a desktop computer, we are often goal-driven. This all effects the likelihood that advertising will cut through and determine its effectiveness.
We can never forget that emotive and likeable advertising works. Most case studies of effective brand-building campaigns are incredibly ambitious. Take the lauded John Lewis Christmas ads. Those do not look like ads where the creatives were consistently telling themselves that people hate what they do. We need to understand the consumer but we can not be tricked into becoming less bold.