The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Advertising is Not the Answer

This is probably going to come as a shock, dear reader, but I am a human being. What's going to come as an even bigger shock is the fact that I occasionally leave the house - in fact, I have to leave the house at least once a week for food. Now, I wouldn't describe myself as a big eater, so imagine my shock last time I went grocery shopping when the girl on the checkout gave me an enormous receipt - over 60cm long - once I'd paid for everything. But of course, not all of it was relevant to my purchases. Behold, my receipt from Woolworths:

Yes, I really have nothing better to do than measure my receipts

That's right, more than half of my receipt is not actually my receipt. It's chock full of promos and offers for other Woolworths brands (Big W, BWS, Woolworths Online, Woolworths Petrol), Jamie Oliver stickers and animal cards. But it gets worse! If we flip over my receipt we see more ads, this time for companies that aren't Woolworths!

 
Seriously, what else should I do? Go outside? That's crazy.

If you do the math, of my 125cm of receipt (front and back), ninety nine centimeters - or almost eighty percent! - is advertising. Does this not seem the slightest bit excessive? Surely the people who are paying for all of these ads on the back realise their message can't possibly be getting through, don't they? When I was studying advertising, a lecturer of mine once made the point that good advertising "breaks through the clutter" - in other words, it stands out because it's different from all the other promotions. In what world are any of the ads on the front or back of my receipt breaking through the clutter? Particularly irritating is the fact the ads aren't even targeted - it's just random messages being shouted out in the vague hope I might be their target audience.

Chucking more and more ads in our faces is a trend I've noticed becoming more prevalent in the advertising industry. I've previously discussed that increasing the amount of promos and ads before a movie does little more than piss your customers off - yet for some reason Hollywood doesn't read my blog and it's only gotten worse since I wrote that rant. Ads are even showing up in new places - I don't know whose idea it was to stick advertisements on the back of toilet doors and on urinals, but thank God that's around, because I really hate taking a shit without having more shit thrown at me.

Advertising on the internet is only growing more intrusive as well. Almost every video you stream on the internet forces you to sit through 10-30 seconds of advertising, regardless of the length of the clip you want to watch. The worst internet ads are the ones that automatically start to play video (with sound) when the page loads - which is hugely irritating if you have several tabs open and can't tell which one is playing the ad. And did you know that the amount of TV advertising grows every year? If you look back at the original series of Star Trek in 1966, the episodes were about 50 minutes long with 10 minutes of commercials. Now, hour long dramas (including the most recent episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise that aired in 2005) are about 40 minutes long with 20 minutes of commercials.

So, going back to my earlier point, why do the advertising companies think this will work? Don't they realise that increasing the amount of ads out there will only make it harder for their ads to stand out? Sure, I may have paid attention to the first ad I saw on the back of a toilet door or the first ad I saw on my receipt from Woolworths, but I see them so often now they're just white noise in a sea of advertisements I have to put up with every day. Admittedly I can see the logic of more ads = more sales, but I would think we as a society will only put up with this assault of advertising for so long before we start to fight back.

And wouldn't you know it... we have!

How long until I can get this on my TV?

In case you haven't heard of it, AdBlock is something you can install on your computer that blocks all advertisements you see on the internet. Yes, you read that right, from the ads on Facebook to the ads on YouTube to the ads on Google search results, every single ad is blocked. It's quite honestly one of the best programs I've ever installed, and if you don't have it, I strongly encourage you to download it, it will change your life.

Naturally, advertisers have noticed people are trying to circumvent their irritating advertising (if not through adblock, then through time-shift recording devices or piracy) and are getting upset. Rather than, I don't know, ask people why they don't watch ads, they bitch and complain that this stuff is unethical and we're robbing content creators of money. A writer I respect, Jim Sterling, did a video asking his viewers to disable adblock, but I'm sorry Jim, as long as your website has intrusive ads that disrupt my enjoyment of your content, I'm not turning it off. I'm fine with advertising on the internet - as long as it's not intrusive. If it's simple, non invasive and above all else silent I will absolutely disable adblock for a website (and I have for a few).

What irritates me is when companies cry foul when we start to fight back against their bullshit. Why do we block your ads? Because they're so frikkin' irritating! I - and, I would argue, most people - understand that ads are necessary if we're going to get stuff for free, but there's a limit to what we as a society will accept. Massively intrusive advertising, shoving ads in new places or content that's eighty percent advertising will only piss off customers, and in the digital age where consumers have the power to fight back, that's not something you want to do.

Remember, the reason your business exists is to create and service customers. Not just to make money.

© 2014 by The Free Man