I Hate Advertising – One Marketer’s Take on the Role of Advertising

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Schmidt, a character from the series New Girl

I hate advertising. Really, I do. As it turns out, a lot of marketers have a degree of disdain for the advertising portion of marketing.

For those of you New Girl fans out there, I’m sure you’ve heard this quote from Schmidt, a hilarious and hyperbolic marketer who is notorious for not mincing his words:

“Advertising is a dog drinking beer, a…moron falling down the stairs…I am in marketing, Winston, the backbone of capitalism. Without it, you’d be dead in two days.” (Schmidt)

Overdramatic, sure. But you get the point.

Who else hates advertising?

Schmidt is not alone in his vitriol towards advertising. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you yourself don’t appreciate advertisements that follow you around on a web page or seeing the same commercial play at every, single, commercial break. What’s more important than whether you or I enjoy advertisements, though, is whether your audience does. And they’re not loving it. The statistics below back this assertion up pretty soundly.

  • 28% of Americans say they’ve taken steps to hide their activities from advertisers. Some 33% said they’ve taken steps to hide their activities from hackers and criminals, putting advertisers at a close 2nd behind criminals in terms of who is most avoided on the internet. Pew Research Center
  • The same Pew Research report also found that “considerably more people take steps to avoid advertisers and unpleasant social observations than take steps to avoid detection by their employers or by government or law enforcement.” So, your ads are less popular than people’s bosses. Ouch.
  • Finally, Pew Research discovered that over a third of young adults (ranging from 18 to 29) are trying to avoid advertisers, which is significantly higher than their adult counterparts. As tech-savvy millennials become the largest generation (and thus the largest source of buying power) the epidemic of ad blocking will only become worse.
  • PageFair’s report on ad blocking found an average ad-blocking rate of 22.7%, estimating that one of its “typical” clients could be losing around $500,000 a year due to a 25% block rate.
  • PageFair also says ad blocking is growing at 43% every year, based on data collected from a sample of their clients.

So, you might already know that people don’t like advertisements

Consumer’s dislike of advertising is nothing new, of course. So, you might be wondering why I’m bothering to bring it up. Go back and take another look at the statistics above. They do not simply cover how much people dislike advertising – they are also addressing the efforts people are taking to stay away from your ads. This is new. The increasing ability to get away from ads coupled with the fact that ads are basically everywhere (Facebook newsfeeds, television commercials, text messages, email inboxes, actual physical mailboxes — the list goes on and on), has led to consumers finally becoming fed up with it all and doing something about it.

Marketers are feeling the heat, too. 52% of marketers consider “Finding new ways to reach consumers as they block or skip ads” to be the most substantial issue they’re talking in 2016, according to AdAge’s 2016 reader survey. The ramifications of this extend not only to marketers who rely on ads but also to media providers that rely on selling ads for revenue. In short, ad blocking is shaking up the status quo.

Creating Value Instead of Creating Advertisements

As ad blocking technology advances and becomes more accessible, difficulty reaching audiences through ads will only get worse. At this point, marketers have two choices: to continue to try to push more unwanted ads in their audience’s faces or to genuinely create value in their marketing assets that will actively attract audiences.

I think you can glean which one will better serve your organization in the long term. As Seth Godin says, “[Content marketing] is all the marketing that’s left”.

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For marketers like myself who are invested in bringing value to their audiences rather than exasperating them, this is hopefully good news.

Still, adoption of content marketing is slow in some industries. A lot of C-suites don’t believe that it actually works and a lot of marketers are doing it incorrectly—and this is at least partly because they’re still being pressured to place emphasis directly on leads and creating messages that push products.

Interestingly, although advertising is pretty much unanimously hated by marketers as well as their audience, there are aspects of it that still really seem to work.

Is Advertising Dead?

While marketing and advertising are different games, they’re intricately connected and advertising can still play a role in a well-crafted marketing strategy. People like (or, at least, put up with) advertising when they enjoy it. For your audience to enjoy your ad (whether that means finding it funny, thoughtful, relevant, interesting, promising etc.), it has to bring them value both in terms of the context and messaging of the ad as well as the ad’s offer.

Keeping this in mind and tailoring ads where they fit most appropriately in the buyers’ stages is key to a nuanced advertising strategy. In the lower funnel of the buyers’ journey, hard CTAs are appropriate, as long as they’re not too salacious. On the other hand, ads in the upper funnel should provide non-branded value that truly puts the audience first.

Ads can be alright as long as they create value for your users — and as long as you don’t overdo it, avoid the creepy factor of overly personalized messages, and target audiences that are actually interested in your products or services. Pulling advertising into your overall content marketing strategy and thinking about it in terms of the buyers’ stages will allow you to bring real value to your audience that they won’t want to block. Ultimately, you should approach your advertisements with the same philosophy you would your content.


Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Identifying Flaws in Your Messaging to find out why the messaging in your advertisements are turning your audience away.

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