How information overload, data glut, and media excess will lead to consumer revolt and an end to marketing, advertising and public relations as we know it.
By The G-Man
A fateful day is coming when there will be no more advertising, marketing, or public relations. Why? Simple: we're killing our industry by being too successful at it.
The communications field keeps finding new ways to send sales messages to target audiences, and by utilizing these new methods to the maximum extent possible, we are strangling the effectiveness of all media. Quite frankly, marketing intrusiveness is out of control.
Ads Beyond Counting.
Sponsored data is built into your mail, e-mail, Web sites, video games, online games, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and media broadcasts. Ads are delivered by TV, radio, phones, outdoor boards, private vehicles, and transit posters. Marketing messages are sprayed on walls, chalked on sidewalks, printed on condoms, acted out in the streets, waiting to ambush you in restrooms, and beamed at you from electronic displays of every shape, size, and description, including sound-emitting urinal cakes.
Viral creations contain ad messages. Word of mouth advertising (WOM) is expanding fast. Channel One delivers commercials to kids in schools.
In stores, RFID (radio frequency identification) chips track your purchases. Watch TV and your selections are tracked. Online, every click is monitored. That information is available for sale, so demographic and psychographic data can be accumulated and you, the targeted consumer, can be more accurately reached.
Ads by the Pound.
Most of us don't begrudge the puffery in the movie or TV sections, but we're blurring the line between information and marketing in all other areas of the paper.
In an "article" on a new car were the following phrases: "…unique charm… head-turning good looks along with outstanding usefulness... exceptional headroom… feeling of spaciousness… Definitely a good buy." Mileage was reported to be 22/city and 30/highway. Hardly impressive, yet the article concluded with "attractive gas mileage" as one of the vehicle's features.
I think money changed hands to get that favorable review. Or there was pressure on the writer to state everything in a positive manner so the auto maker as well as their dealers will take out more ads.
We've gotten used to these things in the auto, movie, TV, cooking, lifestyle and home sections. But now they're happening in every section. Indeed, they happen in every aspect of today's communications.
The Pay-To-Say Society.
You may be reading this on a Web site that places ads all around the text and/or links to ads embedded in the editorial content, just awaiting your unsuspecting cursor to roll over them.
If you're reading this in a magazine, an RFID may be inside. (For that matter, there may be RFIDs in the lining of your jacket, in your shoes, in your jeans, or in that pack of gum in your pocket.)
The Truth: On Sale.
Since I was supplied with reams of input and interviews, the article was full of facts and figures about the miracles of their recycling process, the enticingly high percentage of re-used product that the industry could accommodate in its manufacturing processes, and on and on.
What wasn't in the article was one teeny tiny little fact: there was no means of collecting the used products in order for any of this recycling to take place. That minor detail negated the underlying point of the propaganda. Oops, I mean informative editorial piece.
With the improprieties of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller came doubts about the print media. These doubts grew after learning that a male prostitute was allowed to penetrate the White House press corps so he could lob softball questions to the president's Press Secretary.
The main problem with all of the "advertorial" placements, made-up stories, and outright lying is obvious. What is left for anyone to believe? With everything becoming an ad, people will start to turn away from ad messages in greater numbers.
The NASCARizing of Everything.
The digital age has already enabled ads to be placed where ads don't actually exist. For example, there are continually-changing billboards behind the batter in televised baseball games. That would be distracting to the pitcher, so they don't appear in real life, only on your TV screen.
There's a new magazine called "Other Advertising" dedicated to the new forms of advertising intrusiveness. That's where I read about digital outdoor billboards that sense the FM station playing in your vehicle and change the display to match demographic choices that align with your choice of programming.
American Technology Corporation's HyperSonic Sound system and Holosonics' Audio Spotlight are perfecting the ability to direct audio messages to individuals passing nearby. So, for example, based on the RFID chip in your purchases, each person in a checkout line would hear a different ad. (Full disclosure: there is a message about ATC's HSS system in the song "Paranormal Radio" on my ELECTRO BOP album.)
I was interviewed on many morning radio programs about how Big Brother might take over all forms of communication. This made for humorous drive-time banter, but what some people overlooked in my list of prognostications was the fact that every one of them had already come true by the time the article was published. They're not all being used in the marketplace due to high costs, but the announcements of their existence have been made.
Ad Industry Usefulness.
So, what do we need to do? First, let's own up to what's going on. We justify things by developing highfalutin' names like "branded entertainment," "product integration," "street teaming," "buzz marketing," "positioned journalism," "secured placement," and the like. But when faced with intrusive technology for your marketing messages, ask yourself if you'd like to be assaulted by it. Let's treat consumers like someone we know. Let's treat them with respect instead of like a mark, a patsy, a rube, or a flock of sheep.
Second, can we attempt to insist on wit, taste and genuine humor in the ads and PR we create?
We advertisers are, at best, invited guests into people's homes or the public space. At worst, we are party crashers or unwanted intruders. And we're overloading everything with annoying messages.
Imagine if we behaved in this manner in our daily lives:
"Hi, Shirley! My good morning message is brought to you by Henderson's Hardware, for all your home improvement needs."
"Thanks, Jim! My Have-a-Nice-Day reply is courtesy Magnum Magnificence, your best choice for a complete line of lighting fixtures. Come to Magnum Magnificence and see the light."
Before it's too late, I hope we all see the light.
Scott G owns G-Man Music & Marketing Miracles in Los Angeles G-Man Music, where he creates radio commercials and composes music for radio and TV spots. Scott adds: "Speaking for voiceover performers, please stop asking us to yell your message, and please stop giving us 72 seconds' worth of copy to read in 60 seconds. Speaking as a composer of commercial music, please don't ask us to rip off other artists' songs."