Monday, January 22, 2007

You're Soaking In It: When Ads are Everywhere

MIT's Ad Lab blog (which is always good for a burst of new ideas) has a post about an NYT article, pointing out what we've already known: there are a lot of ads out there in the world, outside traditional media channels.

I think this is a trend that didn't start, but got a boost from a key book, written (yeesh) a decade ago called Under the Radar. The book was written by K&B (of K&B fame). I very clearly remember reading this book, when it first came out. I was full of hope and wonder. The first sentence of the book reads as follows:
"We are in the midst of an epidemic of cynicism"
Hell yes, I believe I thought. Here was a marketing book, an advertising book, that started off by admitting the actual problem: people are actively tuning ads out. They have, in the parlance of the book, tuned their radar to such a fine degree that normal ways of advertising (TV, billboards, etc) just aren't getting in. The authors suggest going "under the radar".

The trouble is, however, that the book's thesis begins to fall down at the execution level. It's been a while since I've picked this book up, but they talked about how they have been successful getting ads in, under the radar, by simply putting them in unexpected places. One example that springs to mind was a Snapple ad on a mango.

OK. That's clever. And I know that a lot of ad-folks saw that and got excited. But was that really effective? Or was it just simply a gotcha-moment for consumers. "Oh! You got me...I certainly wasn't expecting an ad there...on my mango."

Listen: the challenge of getting consumers to notice and respond to your ads is not simply a cat-and-mouse game where we try to sneak some message in when the poor hapless consumer isn't looking. All that does, really, is expand the radar. The consumer now has to be wary of ads on a new medium. The Global MangoPlex is no longer an ad-free zone, and consumers now know this.

But, undeniably, ads are everywhere. I'm going to have to finish this post, but I'll do a follow up in a bit. The point, though, is that the spread of ads is a very clever and interesting reaction to an undeniable reality: if you are an industry dedicated to creativity, how do you re-create yourself in the face of your own doom?
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