The Ad-Gad-Fly Generation

I’m physically allergic to advertising and almost never watch TV in real time because I can’t zap ads in real time.  If I want to watch something, I’ll likely either watch it on a pay-premium channel or download it through iTunes.

It’s not just that I hate the distraction (I do), but the standard of U.S. advertising is so much worse than the fare I was raised on in the U.K. So it was with some optimism that I read the recent survey on ad consumption of younger “digital native” consumers carried out by Time Inc. and Innerscope Research. It seems the young are indeed restless, switching media venues up to 27 times per non-working hour. They tracked media consumption across devices, and across the board the folks surveyed were moving around primarily to avoid pesky commercials.

In part, it’s probably because the lazy interrupting approach employed by advertisers tends to cause buffering, but it’s mostly because the younger and media demanding audience just won’t sit idle for garbage. They value their time more highly and have the tools to avoid and ignore ads. One response from Madison Avenue is to make ads harder and harder to close or ignore. That won’t work because all the browser has to do is flip to another window and wait for the interruption to finish. One increasingly popular product placement approach shows promise but can be jarring (see my earlier post on zombie product placement). The hardest, but perhaps only viable long-term strategy, is to make an effort to actually produce attractive, entertaining commercials that don’t bore, patronize or hit the audience over the head with dumb messaging.

The audience is evolving faster than the 30-to-50 somethings who run Ad Land can cope. And it’s voting with its remote, mouse or fingertip and simply avoiding or ignoring the message. The writing is on the tablet.  If the yellow pages industry only has five years left (and that seems to be the smart consensus), the wider ad world better get with the program and start entertaining rather than annoying, or else they will be right behind them.

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