asiCast 118: Why is advertising so unpopular?

It has been widely accepted over the last few years that consumers feel advertising is a nuisance. It insists upon an unpleasant and increasingly intrusive presence in their lives and is something to be avoided if possible.

Online advertising has contributed to this enormously, with the interruptions to people’s browsing experience by pop-ups, the creepiness of much retargeting and the sheer annoyance of autoplay videos often listed as the main offenders. There seems to be no escaping the persistent noise of advertising.

This problem of persistence was stated as one of the main reasons why the World Federation of Advertisers launched its cross-media measurement initiative – an attempt to avoid ‘the excessive ad frequencies that some have been exposed to. This is critical to avoid an apathetic (or outright hostile) reception towards advertising from our audiences’.

Yet it may be that a great deal of the problem is because much current advertising is simply not entertaining and doesn’t seem to even want to be. In this asiCast, Brian Jacobs of BJ&A talks to Paul Feldwick about his latest book Why Does The Pedlar Sing?, which seeks to establish what creativity really means in advertising.

Whilst rational, persuasive messaging has dominated thinking as to how advertising works from the very outset, it has failed to recognise much of what advertising has achieved. In Paul’s view, advertising has recognised the additional need for brands to become famous, in much the same way as celebrities or movies or books become famous when they provide the kind of pleasure people can relate to and become part of a popular wave. His book provides many examples of how brands have not been built on rational persuasion alone but by campaigns that have made them famous – establishing that ‘mental availability’ in the mind of consumers regarded as so important by Byron Sharp and others.

Much of the annoyance expressed currently by consumers towards advertising is because they are frustrated by how bad it is. When questioned closely it seems they don’t hate ads as such – they hate bad ads. They are irritated by the extent to which much advertising persists in beating them over the head instead of attempting to ‘charm’ them. Brian and Paul discuss who is to blame for so many ads lacking any entertaining creative element. Maybe being bombarded by ads consumers like might not be as bad as being bombarded by ads they loathe?

Advertising as an industry regards itself as ‘of the moment’ yet, as with anything else, there is much to learn from the past. As Paul says, ‘If we don’t understand the past, we have no hope of making sense of the future.’ There is a great deal to learn from the history of advertising that has a tremendous relevance today. The internet has been around for about 25 years and we’re still debating the best way to use it, whereas with commercial television people understood its worth and value within 18 months.

Why Does The Pedlar Sing? is available from your local bookshop or with a 15% discount when entering the code HUCKSTER if ordering direct from the publisher. Paul also says there will be an audiobook read by him released soon and available on Audible, Apple and other platforms.

Paul Feldwick talks with Brian Jacobs:

You can also listen to the interview by pressing play below or click here.

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