Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sound Of The Suburbs

The other night, while watching a favourite TV programme, a new (well, to my eyes anyway) level of advertiser’s intrusiveness was laid in front of us; the consumers curled up on the comfy sofa.

The commercial break was, as usual, annoying enough since it – again, as usual – interrupted the programme’s flow. But, it was what followed said commercial break that proved so aggravating because it appears that advertisers now feel we – the viewers / the consumers – can be devalued by a new treat from their bag of tricks.

And this new indulgence of theirs is..?

Well, the programme in question kicked off again… but… placed at the bottom left of the screen occupying (at a rough guess) approximately ten percent of the physical screen-space… was a run-on of one of the previous advertisements.

And, this animated mini-ad remained in situ for the entire duration of that segment of the programme.

With its’ positioning, one’s eye cannot help but be drawn to what is going on at the bottom left-hand-corner of the screen. Clever in one respect but exasperating and deeply annoying in another since this particular ad takes up just enough screen-room to intrude into what is actually going on in the programme one has tuned in to view.

Did it work, did this advert communicate its message? Did it bollox.

Lets take another quick example – which, according to Steve Purdham (CEO of an internet music streaming service in the UK called We7) is tied up in something he likes to call ‘dwell-time’. This (apparently – yeah, I know, it’s a laughable phrase, isn’t it) is the time one spends on site X or Y ‘engaging’ or ‘interacting’ with what they – the provider – have to offer.

Bypassing the corporate bullshit speak, it links into how they – the advertisers – can specifically target their audience. This is done via all the ‘bots’ out there that track one’s movements on the web (and there are more than anyone even imagines – hence new legislation in progress to combat big brother’s snooping tactics).

Clever… for sure it is. But… what actually happens is that one is continually being bombarded with advertisements that, because of their intrusive nature, are now having very little effect.

The other day, I was prowling about on the wibbly-wobbly after information and eventually linked in to an instructional video for a particular PhotoShop CS5 element I was having trouble grasping. But, before my cyber-teacher and I could ‘engage’, I was subjected to a thirty second advert.

The same goes for (herewith just another random example) tuning in to view a BBC video news feed off their site. Sorry chaps… I do NOT want to watch thirty or even fifteen seconds of advertising before I get to the news item in question.

So, all you advertising wallahs out there… know what happens…? I’ll go and stick the kettle on while your beastly advert plays out. And, quite honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Y’see, this little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll in the windswept prairie reckons this (new) level of intrusive advertising is completely counter-productive. And, it ain’t the way forward for this medium.

Advertising is and has – for as long as anyone who reads this can remember – been part of the daily function of our lives. No big deal… it’s just a part of modern life.

However… with the economic world still grappling with being part of the new Millennium, the advertising agencies are trawling the depths of the barrel marked ‘new ideas’ as to how to get their messages across.

Some – indubitably – work brilliantly; lets take the Nike ‘swoosh’ logo as one example… its just an image, a graphic, an emblem and yet… gradually its seeped into the public consciousness and its now known the world over for what it is. No need for ramming the word Nike down anyone’s throat; no need for copyrighters’ silly tag-lines… just the graphic unobtrusively positioned. Very clever

Rapha (purveyors of top-of-the-line cycling clothing) are another such. It’s a brand created by Simon Mottram and he’s very cleverly positioned his company as much by subliminal advertising as by generating high-quality apparel that is and yet doesn’t appear to be branded (much like Nike).

One’d have thought that the market for cycling and accessories (clothing being a key component) would be limited. Not so. Mintel (as quoted in The Independent on November 4th) have stated it is worth 700 million (yes… million) squiddlys in the UK alone. And, in 2011 it’ll be even higher.

Among the (many) component factors that have clearly helped are the Manx Missile’s exploits in the Tour making front page news to the Boris-bikes initiative; from Briton’s winning a sack-full of medals at the last Olympics to people in general getting the message that getting out and about on your bike is a good step forward to being healthy.

And Mottram and his Rapha brand are not just riding the crest of that wave but expanding step by step internationally. And doing so exceedingly cleverly; while the US is now their biggest market he’s recently brought in a chap previously at Adidas to spearhead their forays into Europe.

The other day, I was out and about in a bit of a shopping frame of mind – perusing the wares on offer in a sports emporium; a shop that offered (across its four floors) everything one’d require if one was a real back-packer to gadgets designed to get the very best out of a snorkeling experience; from football strips in one’s favourite team colours to hiking boots and biking gear; from tennis racquets to rugby balls.

And… ploughing along the rails of replica cycling team-jerseys one stood out from the rest. It was off-white with the maker’s (team) logo discreetly positioned over the left breast in a silvery-white. From a distance, it looked like a simple off-white cycling jersey. Close up, the cleverness of the design became apparent.

How can white on white work..? Well… let me assure you, this did… it was exceedingly cool… and, not to put too fine a point on it, this Rapha jersey was the absolute puppy’s privates. Had I the spare wherewithal, I’d have had the plastic swiped and the item in a carrier bag with no hesitation.

In design terms, retro-chic is, I believe, the adjectival expression.

And, retro-chic that’s classy as opposed to the shoddy stab at the same genre by the designers of Team Sky’s dreadful 2010 outfit which, incidentally, hung alongside the Rapha jersey on the same clothing rail.

In 1930, Jose Ortega was quoted saying, "We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation but he does not know what to create."

The same rings true today. We’re in the middle of a(nother) industrial revolution… and, just because there are different variants on advertising delivery / brand-awareness now available, it doesn’t follow that the model of twenty or thirty years ago will work.

While those that do embrace it will succeed, equally, its time that advertisers (in general) woke up and got smart to the fact that they’re simply pissing off potential customers – otherwise and before too long, someone smart will set up a pay-wall behind which people who don’t want to be intruded upon can retreat and not be subjected to what is, nowadays, advertising harassment.


Anonymous said...

Some very fair points and well made.

I would say in America that people have become largely desensitized to advertising now. Possibly that is why it is hard to escape what you've termed their intrusion into daily life.

That desensitization borne out when I watched a video on the BBC site of today's student demonstrations in London (although they looked more like rioting).

It was only after reading your blog that I realized that prior to the BBC footage, they had run a short for FedEx.

Bill Evans, New Hampshire.

Fifi Dessein said...

Advertising is dead. Ad agencies know it and are desperate to prove their worth, pity they can only resort to predictable flashy gimmicks.

There's no intelligence in ads any longer. No emotional connection with their audiences.

As for Rapha, they don't need an flashy gimmick logo. They understand maketing stealth