Does advertising work anymore?
October 20, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I, and likely most of you reading, consider myself jaded towards advertising. But I've been wondering, have marketers effectively come up with ways to influence people like me who routinely ignore ads?

If you usually get pissed off by the ubiquity of advertisements, when was the last time you recall seeing an ad (whether it was on TV or more "sneaky" such as in a Buzzfeed article) and responding favourably, even purchasing the product or service? If anyone keeps up with academic literature on the subject, I'd be interested in knowing about anything on this topic you may have come across. I know some people aren't so critical of advertising, but I'm interested in learning about new ways marketers have devised to get to people who are hyper-critical of being marketed to.
posted by oceanview to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Online advertising (PPC and display, across Google, Facebook, Bing, and YouTube etc) is huge. For example, Google's ad revenues are basically greater than all of the revenues of North America's traditional print media. People are clicking on these ads.
posted by Nevin at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only advertising I feel influenced by is adverts for films and tv shows, I guess? I am looking around my house right now and I don't see a single thing I purchased because of an advert; it's all because it was recommended to me by friends or something I discovered on my own when searching for a general thing in that category. I don't see any online ads because of adblock, so on the rare occasions I am forced to see ads, I am so disgusted by their presence that I would not click on or buy the promoted product pretty much on principle.

I have seen ads that I think are cleverly done or worthy of some sort of artistic merit, but (so far) they have never been for a product or service which interested me in any way.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:09 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm very skeptical of ads, and like to think they "don't work on me," but I think GoPro might be a good example of what has broken through that. The amazing action video genre just kinda took over, and those videos are part of our subconscious now. There are plenty of other choices for action cameras these days, but something about the GoPro made it stick in my mind, and make it seem like a better choice. Probably because it has so much momentum around it.
posted by oxisos at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last spring I got allergies for the first time ever. It was miserable and I decided I was going to go find some sort of allergy medication, but since I'd never had any allergies before, I had no idea what to buy. I remembered some stupid, ubiquitous allergy medication commercial from years ago for a non-drowsy allergy medication. I ended up not buying any because my roommate already had some allergy pills, but if she hadn't, I probably would have, or at least seriously considered it because there are about a million choices to sort through. (And then it hit me that this was advertising in action.)

In general, I find ads really annoying, and if they're everywhere and too hard to avoid, I'll try to avoid them. However, now I suspect the point of ads isn't so much as to overwhelm you with a products usefulness or amazingness but to make you feel more familiar with it, so when you are making a decision, you can think 'oh, I've seen that before, it can't be that bad.'
posted by raeka at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

You'd be pretty amazed how effective advertising can be. It's become more about creating a positive attitude toward a brand or product, rather than overtly selling shit to you. Lifestyle branding, etc. And, it's expanded into so many different and varied outlets, that it's sometimes hard to discern if you're being marketed to or not.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [19 favorites]

I tend to respond favorably when the ad is for something I'm already planning to buy, or buy regularly. Examples of such ads would be:

- a junk mailer with coupons for Dunkin Donuts coffee (I regularly drink this coffee anyway)
- a department store's TV spot about the "free gift" that comes with Clinique purchases over $x (I've been planning to buy makeup anyway, and the "free" gift will likely persuade me to buy that brand at that department store)

I guess the takeaway is that, probably not unlike pre-Internet advertising, people are generally not persuaded out of the blue to do something they had no intention of doing until they saw the effective ad. But if they're in the market for whatever product, they'll be more receptive to advertising about that product. And market research can tell you what type of person is most likely to be in the market for what type of product, etc.
posted by elken at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Many ads are branding, not designed for you to act on immediately. Toyota does not expect you to jump up from your chair and run down to a dealership when you see a commercial. If I do buy a Toyota, it's not because of a particular ad; it's a cumulative decision, probably based on some informational advertising over years or months, some personal experience, some aesthetics, some pricing, etc.

You may not be as immune to advertising as you think. Do you own things? Why do you own the particular things you own? Do you have anything Apple?
posted by sageleaf at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]

The general population does not know there is a difference in google search results for "sponsored links" and results from the actual search results. I am forever educating people about it. I think that market segment is so huge the marketers have basically abandoned the idea of influencing people who are more internet-savvy (which is a really, really small part of the population).

I see tonnes of product placement still though (songs, videos, tv shows, movies and some books), and astroturfing, especially on Reddit, is ubiquitous.
posted by saucysault at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Look at it this way: companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Snapchat and dozens only slightly smaller derive most or almost all their value from selling ads (or the potential that they may, someday soon, start selling ads to their user base). Just for instance, Google still makes more than 90% of their revenue from selling ads across their various products.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ads are complex and whether you believe in them or not there entire departments in business schools that study them and how they work. "Branding" is real and as powerful as it's ever been and while advertising is only a tiny part of that it's still a huge part.

Consider that ads don't just influence purchasing decisions, they help reinforce decisions consumers have already made - maybe no one is going to buy a BMW because they saw an ad for one, but BMW buyers feel better about their decisions because they see all those ads saying how awesome BMW is.

Anyway, ads are complex even if you're not buying Tide because the lady on TV says you should.
posted by GuyZero at 12:27 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

responding favourably, even purchasing the product or service

Amazon is insanely good at recommending products to me to purchase. Obviously this is based on a great deal of knowledge about me and the things I buy and search for, but in the past I have purchased a lot of baking accessories. I also purchase a lot of dog accessories. I also have searched for dinosaur earrings.

It has recommended dinosaur cupcake papers and dinosaur shaped nylabones to me, and both of those were exactly my kind of thing and purchased immediately.

Targeted advertising done right.
posted by phunniemee at 12:28 PM on October 20, 2014

I do what I can to avoid marketing -- like subscribe to web services to avoid ads, recycling junk mail and coupons without opening them and watching tv on streaming services where possible so i can skip the commercials.

Recently, however, I marveled at one form of advertising that has actually gotten me to at least watch -- those that run prior to youtube videos, where you're given the option to skip after a few seconds. Many times the producers have done a great job of building up tension or interest in those precious 10 seconds and I'll hold off on pushing the button just to see what happens. I don't think they've influenced me in any way yet, but they are well-made!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:30 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

IMO advertising is really useful when it informs you of the existence of a new product/service/feature you otherwise would not have known about.

I spent years carefully curating my Hulu Ad Experience to show me primarily ads about cell phones, tablets, etc. because it was a great way to keep up on advances in the technology without having to spend extra time following the topic in the news.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:34 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Google and others sell pay per click ads that are designed for you to buy a product immediately (like a book or a DVD or whatever) but that's a relatively small part of the overall advertising industry. The real money is brand advertising, i.e. subconsciously reaching you to influence your purchasing decisions one way or another. Those ads work at the subconscious level, so the vast majority of people either don't think about them or think they 'don't work on me'.

There's lot of academic stuff on this that you can find in any marketing 101 textbook, but to get a more visceral feel for it imagine you are in a shop buying some commodity like washing powder. You don't care about washing powder. You just want to get out of there. Which one do you buy? If you don't buy the cheapest one there, ask yourself why not and you'll soon find yourself back in the devil's own business.
posted by StephenF at 12:34 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you usually get pissed off by the ubiquity of advertisements, when was the last time you recall seeing an ad (whether it was on TV or more "sneaky" such as in a Buzzfeed article) and responding favourably, even purchasing the product or service?

But you're measuring with a false metric there, because that's not really how a lot of advertising works. Have you ever bought anything from IKEA? Because in multiple markets, IKEA doesn't advertise specific products; IKEA advertises IKEA. And when you're in the market for a couch, or photo frames, you are likely to look to IKEA.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I teach a class on language, cognition, and advertising where we try to evaluate this question and I think the basic answer is yes. The effects can be very subtle, and they certainly aren't conscious, but my only conclusion from the literature that really tries to address this question is that the effects are there. You shouldn't think that the goal of an ad is something like "x sees an ad -> x buys that product" however. Rather, the goal is more like to raise the salience of the product or brand in a population so that in aggregate that product is more likely to be the first thing that people think of in a product line, thus leading to a measurable increase in sales at the aggregate level. Also, in a lot of product areas advertising from (apparently, though not necessarily actually) competing product lines is at the saturation point, so my guess is that this "top-of-the-mind" effect may balance out in these product areas (but if any of the companies stopped doing it it would be disastrous to them). However, much of the research on this is not public so it can be very hard to assess. At the level of individual exposure to ads, most of the research that I've looked at indicates that we don't really have much control over our exposure and processing of the ads except at a very coarse level (adblock etc, which very few people use and nowhere near completely blocks exposure to ads in general). In most commercial environments in western culture, advertising in some form is pervasive and at saturation level, and just can't be avoided without becoming a shut-in.

Some of the best work I've seen on this topic comes from the computational advertising group at yahoo research, MS research, and google (which doesn't have so neat a public link as the other two), in fact these three seem to trade around researchers (here is one of the top ones IMO who is currently at google). This is focused on the internet of course but some of the most interesting studies pair internet ad exposure data with e.g. purchase data from retailers on a large scale. I can only assume that these researchers don't publish everything publicly, and the scope of data they have access to can be frightening.
posted by advil at 12:36 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

You -- and most people -- are a lot less jaded about advertising than you think you are.

Advertising doesn't really work like you think it works. See a commercial, feel compelled to buy the product.

Instead, advertising has a lot more goals.

For example, let's say I see a commercial for Tide, specifically those little one-shot nuggets of laundry detergent you can buy nowadays.

And let's say that next month, I'm standing in the laundry aisle of the supermarket. I probably don't remember that Tide commercial, but having seen it, a few realities present themselves:

1. General brand recognition. There's a strong chance that I already know Tide exists and consider it a legit brand of detergent, because I saw the commercials. I don't feel compelled to buy Tide rather than Cheer or Gain, but I put it on par with those brands, and above random no-name detergent.

2. Placement with the right sorts of people. Tide has gotten the message out to their customer base, which is presumably "people who do laundry". I didn't hear about Tide in the New Yorker, or Marc Maron's podcast, but on a mainstream TV network at prime time. So I know "hey, I'm a person who does laundry, this product is for people like me". The context you see an ad in tells you a lot about the product and whether it's for you. An ad for Seventh Generation is going to appear in a different context from an ad for Tide. Similarly, Dr. Bronner's doesn't advertise, and there's a reason for that.

3. Informing me about a specific product Tide makes. I bought liquid detergent until I found out about the little one-shot gelpak jobbies. I found out about them via, you guessed it, advertising. I didn't see the commercial and think "MUST BUY GELPAKS", I saw it and thought, "hm, so, that's a product that exists..." and it seemed pretty obviously convenient to me. I guess I could have been more "jaded" about things and assumed from the outset that the little pod thingies must be garbage, but, I don't know, that seems pretty exhausting.

So, yeah, don't think of it as some kind of subliminal compulsion. Think of it, instead, as a way to transmit information about brands and products. You act on this sort of information every day, even if you don't think you're the type of person who "falls for" advertising.
posted by Sara C. at 12:40 PM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

I work in the field and, if you've ever read someone's resume on LinkedIn, ever sent an email to a consultant/professional after visiting their site, read an Amazon review, ordered online, asked a friend for advice, told a friend your recommendation for a product, ever liked something in a magazine and bought it, donated after reading about a disaster in a news story, signed up for a website because you liked what others were commenting and felt you needed to contribute, read a news article, watched the news, noticed a logo on a shopping bag, brought your own bags to the store to save 10c, read a store flyer, eaten a sample in the grocery store, felt warm and comforted in a store or liked the music or the smell, had to stoop down to pick cheaper stuff from a lower shelf, read store signage, read product packaging and so on and so forth, then, you have been influenced by marketing and advertising. Some brands are also "alternative" brands and others rely on influencing other people to influence you, btw.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:42 PM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]

have marketers effectively come up with ways to influence people like me who routinely ignore ads?

Yes. At this point, you're a marketer's best friend: You're someone who is certain that advertising doesn't work on them, but you're also almost certainly locked in the mindset that the model of what constitutes an advertisement (and a successful one at that) basically consists of what it always has: a print or video ad which extols the virtue and wonder of some product and which then exhorts you to go buy it.

These kinds of ads do exist, and they still do catch a lot of fish, because why wouldn't they, really. But there's a world of savvy consumers out there who believe the trick doesn't work on them. People who see a commercial for Tide and have no more or less of an inclination to buy Tide than they did before they saw it. For these people, there are alternatives.

Remember those weird-ass Skittles and Starburst commercials a couple years ago?

In one of them, a mariachi band met a gruesome end in someone's mouth. In another, a guy had a prehensile beard. In another, some people sat on a rainbow and one of them stopped believing in it or whatever and fell to his death. An observer who was paying attention would probably notice that they were just one of a lot of bizarre ads at the time, and I remember quite a few people laughing at them and saying how they were failures as commercials. But regardless of their opinion of the brand, or how effective they thought the spots were, there's one thing they all had in common: When talking about that shit, they all used the word Skittles, or Starburst, depending on the ad. The spot is a conversation piece, and you'll use the brand name without thinking about it. This is key, because let's face it, advertising to raise simple awareness is useless for a brand like Skittles. Everyone knows about Skittles already. The real meat is in how much real estate the brand takes up in your head. How many times a day you use the product name. How many of your friends you talk to the commercial about.

Same deal with, say, Burger King. Rememebr Subservient Chicken? Or any of the other wacky-ass things they cranked out in the early 00s? Remember that creepy Burger King mascot with the unsettling mask? Do you think it was an accident? That the folks at BK were kicking themselves for not realizing how memorably weird that mask was?

No. Conversation piece. At some point, it became clear that consumers are willing to do the legwork in spreading the word of a product. And the consumers most likely to do this are the people who believe that the ads are hilariously bad because the spot didn't make you want to go to Burger King or buy a bag of Skittles.

Hell, maybe it'll make you hungry for a Whopper, and if it does, hey, great. Make no mistake, that's a win too, and there are plenty of them. But what matters more than anything is that you'll use the brand name, you'll tell your friends about it, you'll do your part to raise the number of times a day that the people around you hear the phrase "Burger King."

Because sooner or later, someone's going to be hungry, and they'll think, "Huh, there's a BK right there," and never question why it stood out to them. This isn't some sort of fancy mental programming - it's simple psych.

There are a shitload of other techniques, some mentioned by other posters already, like lifestyle branding and whatnot - Apple is an amazing example of this; their products are expensive electronics like any other, but they're fantastic at marketing so you get people who have fearsome brand loyalty. They're not selling you an iPhone, they're selling you the chance to become the kind of person who has an iPhone - an image they've carefully crafted over years and years.

Consider the huge 80s nostalgia trend - how we celebrate cartoons like He-Man or Voltron or GI Joe or Transformers. These were literally nothing but half-hour-long toy commercials. And then they'd release the Transformers movie, because sooner or later it became clear that not only would you pay for the product, you could also be convinced to pay to watch the commercial with very little maneuvering. Seriously allow yourself a moment to think about how fucked up that is, and how we just accept it as totally normal. Advertisers know what they're doing, they know how to sneak shit into our brains, and they're only getting better at it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

The thing about 'modern' advertising that kinda scares me is how it seems like some ad campaigns try to touch people in sneaky and ubiquitous ways.

For example: recently I have seen at least a couple of sitcom references to the "hoverboard" from the Back To The Future movies (in The Big Bang Theory and another show I forget). I could be wrong but I suspect there is some kind of Back To The Future revival in our near future (or maybe it's happening and I've been missing it).

[The "hoverboard" thing always makes me groan, as for years there's been this entire 'thing' about how some people were fooled into thinking that they actually exist, and I strongly suspect it is 100% an advertising scheme]

Similarly, a few years ago there was some movie about tornadoes in the theatres, and our local news happened to do a set of features about what people should do if we had a tornado in our vicinity. Again, I could be wrong, but I suspect collusion.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:57 PM on October 20, 2014

Even with all the changes there's been.. nothing beats word of mouth.
posted by tanktop at 1:07 PM on October 20, 2014

I have advertised my thing that I sell. I have seen a massive spike in sales that directly corresponds to said advertisements. Ergo, based on my own direct experience I am confident that advertising works (for various values of "works" and depending upon the specifics of said advertising.)
posted by Lokheed at 1:07 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I always assume that I am being unconsciously influenced by the ads that I see, or that I am simply picking up brand names - so that when I go to the store, even if I don't know anything about the different brands of crackers or whatever, at least one will be familiar and I will be more likely to buy it. I would love to believe that I am a special snowflake who lives beyond advertising, but I doubt it.

Actually, strike that - I get ads for fancy men's style blogger-esque products and websites, and I do sometimes click through. I bought a pair of shoes on sale that way only last month.
posted by Frowner at 1:10 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

recently I have seen at least a couple of sitcom references to the "hoverboard" from the Back To The Future movies (in The Big Bang Theory and another show I forget). I could be wrong but I suspect there is some kind of Back To The Future revival in our near future (or maybe it's happening and I've been missing it).

This is absolutely not advertising. There's no real way that TV writers would be enlisted for a viral campaign like this, especially before any kind of development deal was announced.
posted by Sara C. at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally speaking, yes, I'm influenced by advertising and I know it. This doesn't mean I can be convinced to buy any given Product X from Brand Y if their ad is persuasive enough. It does mean that, in categories of products that I'm likely to buy, I'm more likely to remember brands and stores that I've heard of recently, whether from word of mouth, product reviews, or advertising.

One of the best examples of this is advertising on special interest blogs. If I read a blog about a topic or hobby that generally involves purchasing things - crafts, cooking, or fashion, for example - and there are ads for interesting products or stores I'm not familiar with, then sure I'll click through.

I have to admit, there have been times where I've been shopping for something and wished advertisers would reach me better. Like "I can't find a place to buy underwear I like! Why don't any underwear stores advertise to me so I know they exist? I have money!"
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

How many company names, products, tv shows have been mentioned in this post? We are advertising. It's as real to us as money or any other commodity.
posted by larry_darrell at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

At one time I thought that free TV would go away because everyone had a mute button. But they figured it out. Now you get ads with giant flashing letters that drill directly into your brain. How about the cialis? ad with the beautiful woman implying you are not quite a man? The mute button doesn't get that one out of your brain!
posted by H21 at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2014

I loathe seeing or hearing commercials and sidebar/banner/pop-up ads, but I've noticed that positive social media interactions from brands work pretty well on me. So I'm likely to pay attention to the existence of and potentially favor over the competition:

*A company who's just very good at social media--acts like a human, has a sense of humor, has a sense of their audience, doesn't do stupid stuff--such that their posts are shared by my friends and I see them often and have a favorable feeling about them

*A company that has very good customer service via social media, either via my own personal experience of an interaction with them, or via my friends' interactions, or via some extraordinarily awesome customer service story that gets shared around

*A company that posts things relevant to my interest that aren't simply blatant attempts to sell me their products--I'm much more likely to follow and interact with, f'rinstance, a women's bike clothing company that also tweets about cycling events and feminist issues, or a cosmetics brand that posts about interesting makeup looks and trends that aren't just thinly-veiled ads for their own products

At the heart of it all is the fact that I value the opinions of my friends and people whose tastes I trust and identify with, so whatever stimulates goodwill and inspires word-of-mouth sharing is much more likely to influence me than seeing a sidebar ad or a TV commercial for something.

Actually, above and beyond everything else, notifications of good coupons and sales inspire me to buy more than I probably should, but those are from companies I already know I like and feel good about, so I don't know if that's the sort of advertising you're thinking of.

(And of course the rational consumer is a myth, so take all this with the appropriately-sized dosage of Baleine French Sea Salt, used by all your favorite chefs.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Podcast sponsors certainly have something figured out. I seek out and listen to these hosts, and they have good things to say about this online backup service (didn't try them, because I use a competitor) or that kind of razor blade (did try that, am now a repeat customer) or maybe those eyeglasses (may try them some day). It's much quieter than TV ads, but much more effective, maybe even because it's pretty upfront.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:32 PM on October 20, 2014

My take on it is that the advertising companies know a lot of stuff about us that we don't even realize ourselves. Branding and brand associations are a huge phenomena that is constantly being studied, analyzed and tweaked. Our purchasing habits, as a whole, get analyzed, not just for one product.

For a very interesting take on the advertising industry by a very influencial insider you can listen to the CBC show Under the Influence with Terry O'Reilly. Highly recommended.
posted by Vindaloo at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2014

I am someone who hates, hates, hates advertising, especially American advertising which is the most loud, overbearing, in your face, and braincell-killing stupid. I especially despise ads for cleaning products or anything having remotely to do with the care of a human in any way ( so all ads directed at women) and constantly have to mute the commercials on radio or the internet, and have a book to cover ads when reading things online. But though I don't end up having great associations for the products, I don't doubt for a second that they are working on me. I'm sure advertising is insanely powerful. I don't really think it has to work by getting you to buy a product. I think it does its work best when it make you think about your life in a certain way. And it always does that to you, not just through the ads but through your interactions with others that get exposed to the ads ( regardless of whether specific products or even types of products get talked about). In other words I think it's 100 percent impossible to "ignore ads".
posted by Blitz at 3:24 PM on October 20, 2014

I watched the first half of 'Family Guy' last night. They were talking about Lois making cookies. I turned off my t.v. and made cookies. I already wanted cookies but, the program gave me the extra push that I needed to get off my couch and make them. My point is, if you have something that someone already wants, then you just need to have subtle reminders for them to get them. FB fan pages are good for this. If you can write clever, useful posts, once every 3 days, then you are doing great. Personality is important. If you have something that no one has ever heard of but you think that they will want, then target advertising is key. I tore out several pages from my O magazine this month because there were several items that I didn't know existed but that I am certain that I now want. If you have a product that no one wants then, no amount of advertising will help you, unless you can figure out how to chia pet it- turn it into something goofy that no one wants but everyone must have at some time in their lives just to part of American culture.
posted by myselfasme at 4:04 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Advertising works when you can choose what to buy, and you're not picking completely randomly. As other people have said, businesses position themselves to fulfill a need or a fix a problem that consumers already have.

For example, whenever you go to a big grocery store, you'll often see the established Brand X sold right next to the cheaper store version, Brand Z. People who like Brand X will get it; budget-conscious people who like Brand X might try Brand Z. The juxtaposition and the package design act as a signal to you, the consumer, that Brand Z could be just as good as Brand X (or an acceptable substitute) for a fraction of the price. If you get a package of off-brand cookies or trash bags or whatever because you registered it as "the cheaper version of X," the ad was successful.

Totally works on me. :|
posted by dire at 6:22 PM on October 20, 2014

TV ads: I don't own a TV, and downloaded shows don't have ads outside of product placement and the like.
Web advertising a la youtube or banner ads: Adblock. I can't recall clicking on anything banner-ad like in several years.

But there are tactics used by advertisers that work, at least in part. For example, amazon related items, or word of mouth comments and links from friends. Or, for example, a few months back there was an advert at a bus stop saying '(chocolate I like) is back in store'.

That said, as an adblock user who does not click on ads, and would not click on any ads, I don't buy the 'you should disable adblock to support this site' comments you sometimes see. I still wouldn't click on the ads.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:35 PM on October 20, 2014

I can't stand internet ads. I've got everything blocked in about seventeen thousand ways, or more. I won't watch television because of ads -- they make me want to puke. Hulu -- give me a break. Suck it, Hulu -- I tried it once, same game that television has played forever, no ads for half hour, then two ads ten minutes apart, then ads ads ads ads ads if you want to watch the movie. Magazines? Hardy har. No. Way. Break an interesting article into forty-seven pieces -- fuck you, never gonna buy your magazine again.

Thank god for the internet -- it has forced businesses to make content available AND accessible, esp if you put every ad-block on the planet on your browser.

If you want me to buy your product, make your product a good one. I will find it. I will read about it, friends and family will tell me about it, I'll see it.

A good ad? That outstanding Honda Accord ad, from about ten years ago, that huge Rube Goldberg production which I just watched again, and laughed through as I watched it; I've never owned a Honda and I never will -- I like American pickups -- and I knew before seeing the ad that Honda makes fine items. I've sent that link to anyone who I know who wants to laugh, by which I mean everyone I know.

Some people actually like ads -- I just can't get my head around that one. And: people will actually pay to wear an item with the brands name and/or logo emblazoned upon the item; I shake my head. I don't understand it. If some horses-ass company gave me a million dollars to wear a shirt with their name on it, I'd take the money then pop the guy in the nose and burn the shirt, burn it so no one else would be dope enough to wear it. I just don't get it. WTF?

I'm damn near sixty. I've likely seen / been exposed to seventy-seven billion trillion ads in my life, if even just logos, and that's with consciously trying to stay away from them. I have been affected by them, you bet. Influenced by them, of course. I buy Dell laptops because I've had such incredible experience with them, including outstanding customer service; I've owned other lappys and mostly they suck it. Apple is cute, and I know that they're well engineered and all, but I'm not going to pay a 66% premium so I can have that logo on my puter, and they can shove their closed garden up their ass; itunes is the biggest virus I've ever had on any puter -- wait a minute, you mean I'm going to pay extra so I can have something that does not work on other puters? Wha'? Get the fuck outta here. Go away. Buzz. Off.

... I think GoPro might be a good example of what has broken through that. The amazing action video genre just kinda took over, and those videos are part of our subconscious now. There are plenty of other choices for action cameras these days, but something about the GoPro made it stick in my mind, and make it seem like a better choice. Probably because it has so much momentum around it.
posted by oxisos at 2:10 PM on October 20
Damn straight. They have people who are willing, even wanting, to make ads for their product, and they are damn fine ads, too. I don't own one of that flavor camera but I promise that GoPro would be in the running, certainly while I was researching the various offerings.

I gotta stop -- headed out the door, going to see a movie that I know has been heavily advertised, I heard/read about it on the 'net, tons of buzz. Boyhood. No exploding helicopters, no capped teeth kissing titanic silicone tits, no bullshit -- just a movie by a director I dig the shit out of, and he's from Austin, to boot. (See there -- I just advertised Linklater AND Austin; go back and unread that, or your soul shall be soiled.)
posted by dancestoblue at 7:21 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in the ad tech industry at the ol' day job.

Advertising is a huge portion of operating costs – like, on the order of 30% – for companies that sell consumer goods. This has a big effect on the bottom line, so it's in their best interest to target those ads as well as they can.

You know how annoyed you get when you have to watch the same diaper commercial ten times in an hour even though you are a single dude and diapers are in no way what you need? Well, advertisers don't want that to happen either. Ideally, they want to know exactly who buys diapers, and then they want the ability to target ads at only those people.

Unfortunately, that's really hard to do. On the whole, advertising is getting smarter and more covert, and it is increasingly driven by some surprisingly sophisticated software. But it's still pretty crude. Companies don't know what to do about people buying things on their website AND on their mobile app, for instance. And how do you keep track of a customer who looks at pants on their home computer but then goes into work and buys Dockers on their company issued computer? It's really hard to connect the dots.

Still, I think ads are actually more effective today than ever before, for the simple reason that it is possible to do targeted advertising at all, and you can figure out the exact click-through rate of a banner ad at all. Back in the Mad Men era, you just blasted your ads at your demographic on billboards and TV spots and then hoped that they responded positively. It was almost impossible to determine how effective an ad campaign had been, with any kind of mathematical certainty.

That said, people are more skeptical about advertising now than we probably were decades ago. I think that has as much to do with the broader culture as it does with the oversaturation of ads today. E.g., you get 10 minutes of ads for 20 minutes of a show, there are ads before movies now, etc. etc.

But targeted advertising works. I spend a lot of money on books. Like, way too much money on books. It's the one extraneous purchase I let myself get away with. When I go look at some book on Amazon and then close my browser, that book pops up on Facebook, on the music streaming site I use, etc. This is very effective use of advertising dollars because Amazon already knows I want this book. I may or may not click the ads, but they are delivering an ad that directly addresses something I actually want.

By the way, the system that advertisers use to get ads to you is utterly insane. There are companies that own the banner ad spaces around the web. They calculate who you are based on some factors, then broadcast that on the exchanges, and advertisers place their bids; the highest bid wins. Then they sell the banner ad space on an "exchange" where advertisers bid on these ad spaces... in real time. And that's how prices are set. The exchanges, of course, take a cut. All of this happens in the time it takes a page to load. Yeah, it's nuts.
posted by deathpanels at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Next time you are at a store, take a look at how much shelf space a product takes up. Look at the rows of Campbell's Soup. Observe the wall of Tide detergent. Examine the Nabisco end caps. Realize that this space is negotiated and paid for. You are looking at a billboard containing a hundred smaller advertisements, each one designed to communicate to a specific audience: You desire this.

Compare these aisles to the beauty aisle, the cereal aisle, the toy aisle. Recognize that the places you go to purchase everything are meticulously designed to guide your behavior.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 8:15 PM on October 20, 2014

If you want me to buy your product, make your product a good one. I will find it. I will read about it, friends and family will tell me about it, I'll see it.

How are your friends, family and reviewers supposed to know about this great product in the first place without advertising?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's all about keeping up with The Jonses.
posted by Exchequer at 8:50 PM on October 20, 2014

I thought I was "immune" to advertising. Then I worked at a big advertising company.

And now I know that I am not any more immune than any other naive silly human schmuck out there, and I embrace it. I take active delight in a well-made or well-targeted ad (especially if my company happened to be affiliated with it!). I'm looking for them all the time. I remember at some point I was watching TV with my husband and saw an ad for Nike Frees and I turned to him with a big smile afterwards. "That really made me want to get some Nike Frees! That was awesome!"

Some of the brightest, most creative minds of my generation are working 70-hour weeks selling you things. You bet your ass you're susceptible to advertising. You think you're too smart for it because you don't even see it anymore.

My very very favorite "commercial" I've seen in the last few years was the Community episode where Subway sent a student to Greendale whose legal name was "Subway", took classes with students, encouraged people to "eat fresh", etc. It was an amazingly cynical, funny take on corporate personhood. It ended tragically. But the best joke of the episode is that Subway paid for that product placement. And you know what's even more amazing? Because of it, I actually went to Subway for the first time in years.

Sure, one visit reminded me why I never go to Subway. I hate how it smells in there. But the fact is, I would never have given Subway another chance if it weren't for that Community episode. I suspect they got their money's worth and then some. Even though I still don't eat at Subway, their brand has way more positive associations for me now.
posted by town of cats at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't have any academic links for you, but advertising isn't just about ads anymore. Football players get fined for wearing Beats headphones, but Beats pays the fines and they keep doing it. Seeing my favorite athletes all wear Beats all the time has sort of made me want a pair, despite me realizing they are being paid by Beats to do it, but I luckily am not willing to pay $300 for headphones.

It's clear when my favorite athletes are being paid to tweet about something because I will see them all doing it. Social media is another big avenue. No one cares what Nike tweets as much as they care what Lebron James tweets. And maybe Lebron James costs a lot of money and the top 2% of athletes are too expensive to be social media spokespeople. So you just pay the other 98% to spread the message for the same price. (Speculation on the cost, but I do see a lot of low level athletes clearly being paid to tweet stuff. I imagine they see the value in reaching more audiences that way.)

Watching the British version of "The Apprentice" made me realize how much marketing is in American TV shows. Every single task, every single reward, everything is a product placement. In England, this is not allowed as far as I know, so the tasks are far more interesting. They create their own products or engage in negotiation tasks that have nothing to do with brand names. In America, they have to come up with a jungle for a new Burger King sandwich.

I hate ads. I use an adblocker for the internet. I mute the TV during commercials. But I'm marketed to all the time anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:37 PM on October 20, 2014

That said, as an adblock user who does not click on ads, and would not click on any ads, I don't buy the 'you should disable adblock to support this site' comments you sometimes see. I still wouldn't click on the ads.

There are different advertising models. Pay-per-click is one, but many bigger sites get paid per ad impression, or a fixed amount based on average impressions.
posted by blub at 1:02 AM on October 21, 2014

Targeted coupons are a very effective advertising strategy for a store and build store loyalty.

My grocery store rolled out a new program that gives points, redeemable for free groceries, on various items assuming you load them onto your card for the week. It is customized to buying habits, so I get coupons for apples, bananas, broccoli, peppers, coffee filters, peanut butter, soy sauce, baking powder, etc. I will go to the store and be loyal for free groceries. I get $20 off per month at least.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:56 PM on October 21, 2014

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