/Advertising needs rethinking

Advertising needs rethinking

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

My cell phone has one of those cute puzzle apps that help to keep my mind and fingers busy whenever I have a minute or two to spare. It’s a wood block puzzle called Woody Origin and is fun to play while I’m having the car oil changed, or waiting for my wife at the grocery store. 

It is a small joy of life now ruined by an out-of-control advertising industry. I’ve killed it from my phone because its creators have been stuffing it with advertising that is constantly interrupting my play.

More and more people are complaining about a junk-ad epidemic infecting computer apps, social media and television. It’s not just the junk ads. Studies have shown that advertising in general makes people unhappy.

One extensive study of 27 European countries found that the higher advertising spending in a country was in one year, the less satisfied its citizens were a year or two later.

It has been estimated that the average person is exposed to as many as 10,000 ads a day. These are on television, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, roadside signs – pretty much everywhere you look. Even your Canada Post mailbox.

People are not just fatigued by the volume, they are increasingly annoyed by advertising that is intrusive, offensive and seemingly impossible to avoid.

Surveys show that consumers are turned off by ads that are completely irrelevant to them. But the most common consumer complaint is about ads that interrupt watching or reading a news story, or break concentration while doing an online puzzle. Ads that take you away from doing what you went to a site for in the first place.

A news site example is found on the ABC network news with David Muir at 630 each evening. Once viewers are well into the newscast, they are subjected to an uninterrupted two and one-half minutes of ads, most of them medical ads promoting better skin, better sex, better everything. These are followed by a return to the newscast – a 20-second of news story, barely enough time for a headline before another two and one-half minutes of ads urging you to tell your doctor to prescribe some drug that you really should have.

(Thanks, but my doctor spent a lot of years in medical school and I trust him to figure out what I need without me telling him to prescribe something a television ad says will do wonders for me).

Advertisers took a pause during Covid but used that pause to rethink and reformat ads. The result has been a deluge of irritating post-pandemic advertising.

Without question ads are important to us all. They support newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Without advertising revenue many forms of important mass communication media could not exist.

Advertising is important, but more and more people are so annoyed by it that they are willing to spend money to avoid it. Personal Video Recorders (PVR) are one way viewers avoid TV advertising. They can fast forward the ads and carry on with watching their record program without annoyance.

Apparently PVRs are being made that automatically bypass ads, saving the viewer from having to push the fast forward button.

The advertising industry needs rethink once again and eliminate advertising that treats people like fools. Ditch the poor quality ads and those that are too frequent, too long, boring and of little relevance. 

Most importantly the industry needs to stop the insert and popup ads that interrupt the content people have signed on to see.

And, get rid of the ads that track and target, collecting information on us to be used for retargeting. That’s invasion of privacy and if the industry won’t stop it, government should.

The industry could do itself, and all of us, a big favour by producing ads that give us information that is intelligent and useful.

An example are those Newfoundland and Labrador tourism ads that calmly and quietly show scenes of serenity and beauty. Quiet coves with fishing boats resting before their next outing; villages with brightly painted houses and children laughing as they run beside a shoreline.

Every time I see one of those ads I turn to my wife and say: “We should think about going there.”