/A time for ad blockers

A time for ad blockers

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

It’s the curling bonspiel season and I’ve been watching a lot of the games on television. Exciting to watch, but too much time in front of the TV has led me to conclude it’s time to buy an advertising blocker.

Ads on TV, and the Internet, are totally out of control. There are too many of them, most lack relevancy and too many are just plain stupid.

And they are becoming more frequent, and longer. U.S. TV advertising minutes per hour grew by six per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The worst ads come from the drug industry. They push junk remedies for everything from toenail rot to dementia. They urge you to call your doctor about a drug, which they hope he or she will prescribe by the truckload to cure whatever ails you.

If we all called our doctor about one-tenth of the rugs advertised, doctors would be on the phone most of the day with little time to actually practise medicine.

Ad blocker sales have blossomed in the last few years. Various studies show the worldwide average for use of ad blockers is close to 40 per cent. Advertising dollar losses due to ad blocking is in the billions.

Advertising is important. It should inform us about products and help us to make better buying decisions. It supports newspapers, television and various other forms of media. It creates jobs that provide income that bolsters the economy. But it has gone beyond the pale.

Because TV advertising has become excessive, its revenues are declining. The growth of streaming platforms and social media are steadily taking people have away from it.

A larger factor, however, is refusal of ad companies to recognize they are driving viewers away by bombarding them with bad ads.

Surveys show that more than 75 per cent of TV viewers do not actively watch TV ads. When TV ads come on, many pick up their smart phone to see what is happening there. Others are buying ad blockers.

China has come up with another way of stopping ads from interrupting viewer’s enjoyment of favourite programs. It prohibits commercial breaks during a show, relegating TV ads to slots between programs. 

Surveys also show that the money product companies pour into TV advertising brings poor returns. Some research shows that some companies spend more on TV commercials than they earn back in additional sales.

Those companies could reverse that trend if they viewed their TV ads a bit more intelligently. Make them less repetitive, more focussed and interesting and target them to the correct audiences.   

Recent Brier curling broadcasts showed just how bad the targeting can be. The most prominent ads in the men’s playdowns were from an agricultural seed company that evidently assumed that most viewers were large western agricultural farmers.

My guess is that the largest block of curling viewers was not commercial Prairie growers but average folks like you and me. The only seed we buy is two-pound packages of grass seed to fill in patches of lawn winter kill.

There are some TV ads that are well done – informative, entertaining and helpful. My favourite is the one with the guy and his son out fishing on an ocean or large lake. The son, holding up a fishing lure found near the boat’s ignition, asks dad if he has seen the boat keys.

Dad, who has just cast out his line with a set of boat keys loosely attached to the end, says he hasn’t.

The keys fall off the line and sink to the bottom while dad, completely unaware, leans back in his boat chair, admires the scenery and says: “I could just stay out here forever.”

The ad is sponsored by an eyeglass company and sends the message that if you get your eyes checked and buy proper eyeglasses you won’t mistake boat keys for fishing lures.

Another shows a woman who believes nothing gets done right unless you do it yourself. So, she stuffs her sleeves with straw, dons a scarecrow hat, goes into a field bothered by birds and drapes herself over a scarecrow cross.

I can see myself in both those ads.