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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Me And My RC

I don’t think I’ll ever be surprised at the volume of advertising that we are exposed to. During our week 1 media deprivation experiment, I turned off the TV, radio and computer and went for a long bike ride. Still, I saw business signs inviting me in… I saw billboards… I heard advertisements from blaring radios from passing cars. When I returned to my silent home, I saw advertising on the packaging of the products that I use, and I had advertising mail in my mailbox. It seems that the only way to truly escape advertising and the influence of mass media for a day is to turn out the lights, close the curtains and go to sleep for 24 hours.

Of the five activities that we were asked to analyze, all were filled with a great volume of advertising. I watched over an hour of sports on TV, specifically the Hall Of Fame pre-season football game on NBC between the Bengals and Cowboys. All of the 24 of the ads I logged were within six categories… NBC promos for fall programs, beer ads, soft drink ads, car ads, restaurant ads, and financial ads. All were from major companies.

On radio, I “listened” to our local radio station. Most of the ads were from local businesses. Local car dealerships, furniture stores, restaurants, etc. I recuse myself from impartial comment, but I have found that local businesses with a quality product have no better advertising option than radio.

On the Internet, I visited five of my favorite sites. … www.snopes.com (Urban Legends), My Yahoo (personalized home page), www.rottentomatoes.com (movie reviews), National Weather Service Radar, and www.Amazon.com. The weather site had no ads and My Yahoo had only one small ad for their fantasy sports games. Amazon.com had a large ad promoting their new, lower-priced Kindle e-book reader. Amazon also had personalized recommendations for their products based on my previous buying habits.

The other two sites, Snopes and Rotten Tomatoes were filled with ads. Virtually all of the ads were for products that I already use, or am interested in. For example, I am a photographer and I have been shopping extensively for a new camera. Rotten Tomatoes had two ads for Canon cameras. I am also a customer of AT&T, Time-Warner, Discover card and Papa John’s and I have recently visited all of their websites. RT and Snopes had ads for all four of these companies. Most of the Internet ads appeared to be targeted specifically to me!

I usually pay very little attention to online ads and I am usually not even conscious of them. One exception during this exercise was for Old Spice. On one page load of Rotten Tomatoes, Old Spice was the only advertiser on the page. They had a banner ad, two videos, and the page background. The ads all feature the shirtless “be a man, man” guy from the popular Old Spice TV commercials.

Except for the occasional accidental click, I don’t recall ever responding directly to an Internet ad. When I visit a website, I am seeking specific information and I don’t wish to be sidetracked by clicking on an ad. Most of the time, I don’t even notice the ads. However, since many of the ads seem to target my interests, I’m sure they are effective at maintaining brand awareness, so I’ll think of their products when I am ready to buy.

If it weren’t for my job, I wouldn’t read newspapers at all. When I do, I don’t notice most ads, but I do respond to pizza coupons and occasionally some local sales.

I just returned from a short trip to Massachusetts, Maine and the rest of New England (beautiful country), so I have fresh memories of advertising while traveling. I listened to over a dozen radio stations as I traveled from state-to-state. Most had local advertising for local businesses. There were also some regional and product ads, as well as PSAs. While traveling, I also encountered roadside advertising (billboards) for restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. The Interstate highway system has big blue signs advertising gas, lodging and food at each exit. I pay attention to these highway ads and respond to them. Sometimes these services are right at the end of the exit, but I have frequently been frustrated to discover that I need to drive an additional two or three miles off the highway to reach these services.

I have also been amazed and amused to some of the other creative forms of advertising that I have encountered. I’ve been to stadiums and bars where advertising is placed on the wall in front of a urinal. In Florida, I filled up at a gas station with a “talking pump” with a big TV screen. While pumping gas, I watched a recorded message enticing me to come in and get a 1-dollar soda or 2 hot dogs for 2 bucks. Both situations have a captive audience of 30 seconds or longer… depending on tank size or bladder size. There is no way to avoid paying attention to these ads.

If advertising didn’t have impact and influence, then nobody would spend money on it and it wouldn’t exist. Since BILLIONS of dollars are spent on advertising each year, it’s hard to argue against its impact and influence. We might like to believe that we aren’t influenced by Coke and Pepsi ads, but how many of us still drink RC?


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  2. Mike, I found it interesting that you mentioned the internet ads that seemed to be geared directly toward you. I have noticed the exact same thing. I recently purchased a new range hood for my stove online. This means that I did multiple searches for a good price on the hood. I logged into a normal site today and sitting right in front of me was an ad for the exact range hood that I had been browsing and looking at last week. Advertisers use cookies to do this, as I'm sure you are aware. Which means that your browsing history has a huge impact on the ads that you see. Many people clear their cookies regularly because of the privacy issues they create. As far as RC is concerned, I grew up drinking those off brand pops. I would love to find a machine offering the old peach pops. When they stopped offering Nehi Peach, I started drinking Peachee (sp?).

  3. Shawn,
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  4. A very good post with some great information and observations! A question. Do you think if we had fewer media outlets and fewer choices, advertisers would still find it necessary to advertise on gas pumps?

  5. I don't think the number of media outlets and other choices has any bearing on the gasoline pump ads.

    Looking at it purely from a marketing perspective, I think the gas pump ads are an ingenious marketing innovation, especially the videos. Many (if not most) self-serve gas pumps don't have the automatic shut-off, so the customer is required to stand there and squeeze the handle for a minute or two. The ad is inescapable. Furthermore, these days, many customers pay at the pump with a credit card and never go into the building. The gas pump ads lure people in with promises of 2 hot dogs for a buck, a 44-ounce soda for 59 cents, or a gallon of milk for $1.99, creating add-on sales for the gas station / convenient store.

  6. I very much enjoyed your post, good writing. I wish I could have gone to New England, have not been there for years. The last time I was in New England the only advertising I remember was very few billboards and they were all geared to the vacation season. Almost everyone had a lobster or a loon on it, restaurants, boating, hotels, and the tourist bureau. Keep up the good work.

  7. Mike great post I really enjoyed reading it. Going off what Shawn said about the internet cookies is anyone else aware that www.facebook.com was bought last year by a major marketing company that takes the info that you put on your page such as music, books, etc... catorgizes it, numbers it and files it then sells that information to companies so they know what to make, how to make it, and how to sell it to you?