Why “Love Hate Advertising”?

Can you be both embarrassed and proud to be in advertising?

I think that’s what I am.

Here’s a quote I’ve sometimes used to justify my choice of career:

“If I were starting life over again, I am inclined to think that I would go into the advertising business in preference to almost any other. The general raising of standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half-century would have been impossible without that spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR manages to make advertising sound almost noble and uplifting.

But before you ad types start feeling too self-important,  there’s this little chestnut which should bring any self-respecting marketer (is that oxymoronic?) back down to earth:

“Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.” — George Orwell

I’ve got this love-hate thing with advertising.

I was raised on the classic VW campaigns, along with incessant used-car pitches by Cal Worthington and his dog spot. My mother also loved to frame vintage print ads from Life, Look, Colliers and Ladies Home Journal. Some great artists like N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish were also commercial illustrators.

So on the one hand, I love the artistry, creativity, cleverness and outright quirkiness of messages brought to us by our sponsor. But I also loathe the constant clutter, ad nauseam blather and just plain tackiness of most advertising.

So this is a chance to compliment as well as critique while highlighting both the sublime and the stupid.

Captive TV: Can you ever have too many screens?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post for a thoughtful guest rant.

In the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten writes about the omnipresent and inescapable TV flat screen. The glowing pacifier that helps people placidly pass the time watching commercial messages while waiting in public places. Like doctor waiting rooms. Or waiting in line at the grocery store. At amusement parks. Airports. Waiting for a drink at a bar.

Felten offers some interesting ideas on where this phenomenon of location-based video is heading in his WSJ De Gustibus column, “Captive TV Nation: Oh the Humanity”. Hint: it has to do with the rise of personal media. Read the whole thing for yourself.

Felten writes, “According to Nielsen, the television audience-measurement people, we collectively viewed a quarter-billion video advertisements in the last four months of 2009.” That’s a whole lotta eyeballs.

An oft-cited figure about the number of commercial messages to which the average American is exposed is about 3,000 per day. Have we reached our limit yet? If not, what’s the cutoff point? How many messages can one person take in a day? Perhaps the better question is, How many messages can a person retain?

Do you find yourself watching the TV screen in a public place, even when you’d rather not? It’s hard to turn away. Whenever possible, I often face the opposite direction, at least when I’m not surrounded. I’d usually rather read a book, whenever possible. But I realize I’m probably in the minority.

How many messages can a person take?

I tried, but unfortunately “ad infinitum” was already taken as a title. Although advertising can be both informative and entertaining, we’re all constantly bombarded. The human head can only hold so many taglines and jingles. But never fear, my son is testing the outer limits.

How do you filter out what’s relevant to you as a consumer from the mindless chatter and nonsense? (To be fair, one person’s nonsense could be another person’s comedy). Share your favorite filtering tips. I have to credit Mitch Joel for turning me on to the usefulness of Google Reader as a way to collect and review disparate information sources in one place.

Crossing the dividing line.

There’s a certain tipping point when entertainment becomes annoyance. Like, for instance, the way a commercial that was funny the first few times becomes tiresome the 10th time. By the 20th viewing it’s downright tedious.

But repetition works, doesn’t it? At least that’s what Mr. Whipple and The Hucksters taught us. And Larry Miller continues the tradition.

We can all sense that point of irritation once we’ve reached it. Marketers and purveyors of such innovations as “captive TV” need to avoid annoying customers, so they won’t be inclined to turn their backs or tune out.

Stay tuned for more. Or as they say, don’t touch that dial!



3 responses to “Why “Love Hate Advertising”?

  1. Boy can I relate to this love hate thing! Very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing Mitch!

  2. This is a great post. What a great collection of information. Perfect for ad people and movie lovers.

    Hank Blank
    Blank and Associates

  3. Pingback: Up In Smoke: Vintage Cigarette Ads « Love Hate Advertising

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