Friday, April 27, 2007

Who's Responsible for Good Ads?

I credit Wayne Friedman for this headline as the title for his column on Friday was Stuck in Neutral: Who Is Responsible for Bad Ads? With the upfront and commercial ratings soon upon us, networks don't want to be accountable for how ads perform. After all, being accountable would require them to charge less for their program ratings.

Arguably, the answer to who's responsible for bad ads is the same as the answer to who's responsible for good ads. The ad agency that created the ad. Since we don't blame ad agencies for bad programming, why would we blame programmers for bad advertising?

One can only be held accountable for what one has control over. As such, only the creator of the ad can be held accountable for whether the ad is actually good or bad.

But is that really the issue here? Is the real issue whether an ad is bad or good, or is it whether viewers leave the programming when the commercial pod comes on? Why is this important? Because if it is the latter, it has nothing to do with the quality of the advertising itself.

The reason is simply this. Viewers aren't skipping advertising. What viewers are skipping are interruptions to their programming. Unfortunately, most interruptions happen to be ads. It could be argued that people, in fact, like advertising. What they don't like is the way that advertising is currently marketed to them.

And, to that end, the programmers are responsible for skipped ads. And until they change the intrusive manner in which commercials are marketed to viewers, they should be offered less for the program impressions that they sell. The interruptive broadcast model was designed for a time when viewers had no voice and no control.

That time is long gone. As will be advertisers, if the intrusive model doesn't change.

But will people opt-in to commercials on their own accord? Certainly. Who? Well, those who are interested in the product or service. But won't these numbers be much smaller than the current impression figures advertisers spend so much for? Of course. After all, waste will be eliminated.

Is there proof that viewers will opt-in? There was a test recently completed on a VOD platform that allowed viewers to opt-in to commercials of interest. These commercials were still targeted to certain programs, they just were not intrusive to those programs.

The opt-in rate? 18%. Most advertisers would take that. If, of course, the broadcasters would allow them that option.

There once was a adman in San Francisco called Howard Gossage. While Howard was known for saying many brilliant things, he had one particular saying that is frequently quoted. "People don't read advertising. People read what interests them. And occasionally, it happens to be an ad."

To steal from the master - "People don't skip advertising. People skip interruptions. And usually, those interruptions happen to be ads.

Advertising isn't broken. The ways that advertising is delivered is broken. To solve a problem, one first needs to understand what the problem actually is.

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