Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Urinals = Ad Clutter
I was in New York recently and noticed, actually re-noticed and re-noticed, that advertising messages are everywhere. This hit home when I went to a restaurant urinal after a fine lunch and had to face an ad, you know, one of those framed ads. Not very high tech but very much in my face — like about 6 inches away.
I thought two things: 1) why do I have to look at this ad and, I have other things that I should be paying attention to right now. 2) it doesn’t stop. A few minutes later I was speeding up to a thirtieth floor meeting in an elevator equipped with one of those relentless video screens and more ads.
No peace! No chance to reflect on my upcoming meeting. No moment to be alone in my thoughts in places that used to be ad free. I’ve been attacked by, yes, dreaded ad clutter.
The Cost of Paying Attention
The New York Times’s “Sunday Review” ran the excellent excellent op-ed piece, “The Cost Of Paying Attention” by Matthew B. Crawford, author the upcoming book “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction”. Mr. Crawford points out that we are bombarded by ads. No news here. But, he makes the strong case that “attention is a resource.” A very scarce resource and the advertising world (that means you and me) are destroying our individual chance to be introspective, alone in our own thoughts and focussed on our own being rather that yet another freakin ad or wannabe social media relationship. Bathroom and elevator advertising isn’t a new phenomenon. However, in Mr. Crawford’s view, they are a form of pollution. I have to agree. Here is how the article begins.
A FEW years ago, in a supermarket, I swiped my bank card to pay for groceries. I watched the little screen, waiting for its prompts. During the intervals between swiping my card, confirming the amount and entering my PIN, I was shown advertisements. Clearly some genius had realized that a person in this situation is a captive audience.
Attention is a resource; a person has only so much of it. And yet we’ve auctioned off more and more of our public space to private commercial interests, with their constant demands on us to look at the products on display or simply absorb some bit of corporate messaging. Lately, our self-appointed disrupters have opened up a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention. In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.
OK, I know, it is our job to capture the attention of the public for our clients and to deliver that all important and inspiring advertising message. We are paid to figure out how to be in everyone’s face on Facebook, on phones, on TV, in YouTube ads, on Google, at airports, on the roads, in Times Square, at ATM’s, on flexible foam fingers, taxi tops, on radio and Spotify, in magazines and newspapers and aimed at our own face in the men’s room. And, I have to imagine that there is a woman’s room equivalent.
SO, your point Levitan?
I think that we need to consider two objectives when we make advertising that adds to (that wonderful word) CLUTTER. This means that we must keep the idea of advertising bombardment in mind in our daily quest for everyone’s attention. Make ads that are truly relevant and are even entertaining. Make ads (yes, they are all ads, even your cool digital efforts) that people might actually want to see.
The idea of thwarting CLUTTER could actually form the basis of a strategic approach that you could incorporate into your agency’s business development planning. One area that you could discuss is the concept of social media content overload as first discussed by Mark Schaefer in his article, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.”
Entertaining “Ads” like the fantastic “The Best Job In The World” advertising (PR?) program that got the world’s attention for Queensland. Watch a video on this compelling and effective program.
Useful ads like AT&T’s 1994 first ever banner ad. Now, that was useful!!