Four common complaints about advertising (and how to deal with them)

 “Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things.”  – David Ogilvy

Let’s face it – Advertising has a pretty bad reputation among consumers. It has been accused of being a liar, a stalker, an annoyance, a time waster, a bully… the list goes on. In consumer perception, “ad” is a four-letter word: “evil.” But it doesn’t have to be.

We exist in an era where advertising doesn’t stop at your freeway exit, or front door, or even your television, but permeates across devices so that almost every moment of your day is vulnerable to commercial messaging. Our research has revealed that the average U.S. consumer spends the equivalent of 12 full days per year consuming media across computers, tablets and smartphones – a number that is certain to grow as device adoption increases.

We have more consumer data than ever, which can be used to fuel smarter advertising and better end-user experiences. In fact, a recent Gartner survey discovered that 64 percent of companies have implemented or are planning to implement big data systems. This presents an exciting opportunity for the advertising industry to rebrand itself, with digital positioned to lead the charge.

To start, let’s look at some of the most common consumer complaints about advertising, and how we can address them:

1. Complaint: “Ads annoy me by interrupting my experience of consuming media.”

Solution: Continue to engineer ad formats that are integrated with the native content. This not only solves the problem of ads annoyingly interrupting the digital experience, but by positioning the ad alongside content that the user has elected to view, the user is less likely to recognize the ad immediately as a marketing message, and less likely to dismiss it as such. Social media sites such as Pinterest and LinkedIn are good examples of sites implementing well-integrated ad experiences.

2. Complaint: “Most ads I see are irrelevant to me.”

Solution: Use data to target only the audiences who are likely to have an interest in the product, or who have demonstrated purchase intent. Also, optimize against campaign performance – maybe you’ve been hitting the right audience with the right product, but the wrong messaging. New technology such as TV Accelerator can even extend the precision of digital advertising to linear television, enabling you to target audiences online who may have missed your TV ad, or to counter your competitor’s TV advertising.

3. Complaint: “Advertisers know too much about me, and it’s creepy.”

Solution: Transparency is key to building consumer trust. As an industry, we need to be more proactive about communicating to consumers how their information is collected, handled and protected, and we have to clarify that personally identifiable information (PII) is not used to target them. Irony aside, perhaps an industry-sponsored ad campaign is the best way to educate our consumer audience on how their privacy is protected. We could point out ways for consumers to opt out of data collection, while also making a case for them to choose to keep their data available. If the consumer understands that turning cookie collection off won’t stop them from receiving ads, but it will hinder them from receiving relevant ads, they may be persuaded to see the value in participating.

4. Complaint: “Ads aren’t very exciting.”

Solution: Raise the bar on the quality of creative to make experiences more interactive and entertaining. There is an appetite for good ad creative among consumers, and it’s not limited to video. Advertisers should take full advantage of the variety of interactions consumers have with devices throughout the day, and push for innovative formats tailored to those uses. Campaign creative no longer has to follow a linear path of starting in traditional media and ending in digital as a by-product of the original idea. Let’s close the loop. As multi-screen advertising advances, we can leverage the mobility of digital devices to intersect the on-screen and traditional elements of a campaign for a holistic end-user experience.

These are just a few of the many criticisms of advertising, but the takeaway is that they’re all solvable challenges. With data and technology on our side, today’s advertising industry can reposition the entire notion of what advertising is, beginning with the individual experience. Instead of annoying and irrelevant, advertising can become a sort of personal concierge for the consumer, learning and anticipating their needs and presenting only the most relevant, engaging and useful information. By strengthening the relationship with our most important clients – the end consumer – we can shed the “evil” reputation and earn a new four-letter word: good.

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