Advertising can’t break through the clutter by adding to it. Yet marketers often treat media as an arms race. With the rise of digital, marketers have never had more tools in their arsenal. Getting consumer attention is often referred to as “capturing eyeballs” as if impressions are the only goal.
At the same time, consumers have never had more power to tune out whatever marketers try to pitch them. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the handwringing on the rise of ad blockers. Yet, consumer resistance to advertising clutter is nothing new. It’s just that that traditional media channels (TV, radio, print, and outdoor) were largely unblockable.
A few years ago, J. Walter Smith famously estimated that consumers were exposed to 500 marketing messages a day in the 70s and 5,000 a day today. I like his synopsis on the implications of advertising clutter:
“Advertising clutter is the single biggest problem with marketing. Not just today, but as long as advertising has been around. People are annoyed by ads that show up in unfamiliar places, but become used to them over time. So marketers respond by finding even more unfamiliar places. It’s cumulative and it’s getting worse…
“If we really want to do good marketing, then we have to get out of the clutter business and stay solidly in the communications business.
“It’s tempting to try and address our challenges by adding more weight to our media buys, but this only raises the cost of doing advertising, and it never goes down in this arms race. We wind up in a place where it costs ever more to get the same old — and sometimes declining — response. Clutter is a fundamental problem for us.”
No matter what happens with ad blockers, I like the idea of getting out of the “clutter business”. I’d love to hear your thoughts.