Just finished reading a fantastic article by Adam Swann called Suffering: The New Ad Medium. In his piece Adam asked the open ended query: Are tragedies a place for brand building? Obviously the answer is no and Adam does a brilliant job using real life examples of brands who simply were out to increase their brand awareness, a.k.a. make more money, at the expense of the misery of others. Now Adam also cites real life examples of brands, Procter & Gamble for one, who “gets it” referencing P&G’s donating thousands of bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid to aid in the cleanup following the BP oil spill.
But there was one line in particular from Adam’s article that caught my eye and became the impetus for my own piece.. “No wonder the world is numb to marketing.” Now, he was referring to the fact that marketing and advertising is everywhere… literally. “… even in the most unlikely locations we may now see an ad for some product or other.” And he of course is spot on.
We humans cannot go anywhere – in our homes, at the ballgame, getting gas, idling behind a bus at a red light, and on and on and on. Hell, even going to a bathroom in a restaurant is not safe. We simply cannot go anywhere without seeing some marketing or advertising message… or so it seems.
So then I asked myself, ‘Is there such a thing as too much advertising?’
Now, seeing how I make my living in the world of advertising, some may think it blasphemous for me to even consider such a proposition. I am surely not suggesting we do away with ALL advertising and marketing. Heavens no… there is surely a need to advertise and market a given product, service or ware, especially when we’re talking about something that could positively impact people’s lives, or the launch of a new brand or product or something along those lines. I happen to love advertising… love it. Love the process of creating and conceptualizing. And I love when an ad campaign resonates with people, strikes a nerve and yes… makes money for clients which in turn makes money for their agencies.
Yes kids, it’s all about the money. Always has been… Always will be… But of course you already knew that. However, it’s not just the making of money, money, money, it’s about the spending of it, as well. After all to make money, one must spend it, remember? Having said that, I can tell you that according to Kantar Media, total advertising expenditures in the first six months of 2011 came in at $71.5 billion.
$71.5 billion… let that sink in for a minute or two.
Of course we all know the names of the big boys on the advertising expenditure block and surely they make up the bulk of that $71.5 billion.
But think about this for one second… if one of the big boys of advertising decided to cut back on their spending even in the slightest, do you think it would greatly impact their bottom line, if at all?
If a certain hamburger chain – a very well known hamburger chain, say one with golden arches for example, spent a little less on their advertising, would people stop going? Would people suddenly forget about them after all these years?
‘Man, I could go for a hamburger and fries… There used to be this place I went to all the time, but I can’t seem to remember their name. Must be because I haven’t see any advertising from them. Oh well, I guess I will go someplace else.’
Obviously I am being overly sarcastic and melodramatic but you get my point.
With so many advertisers spending so much money to advertiser and market their message across so many mediums and platforms to so many people, we will one day get to that point? Will we all one day collectively say ‘enough is enough?’
And of course, advertising sells.
However I know of at least one person who thinks there’s too much advertising – at least too much advertising to her children – and that’s a woman by the name of Monet Parham. In and out of the news over the past year or so, Ms. Parham is behind a lawsuit aimed at the same aforementioned golden arched hamburger chain. She claims in her suit filed in California that the fast food giant violated the state’s consumer protection laws by using toys to deceptively advertise its Happy Meals to children, in this case, hers.
She claims the deceptive advertising practices are “… getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”Also jumping onto the “too much advertising” bandwagon is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and specifically Dr. Victor Strasburger, a member of the AAP’s Council who made it perfectly clear that he thinks advertising- and too much of it, has played a direct role in the amount of overweight people we have in the United States, “We created a perfect storm between media use, junk and fast food advertising, and physical inactivity. We created a situation where we now have more overweight and obese adults in the U.S, than underweight and normal weight adults; it’s become an urgent public health problem.”
Now to the good doctor and Ms. Parham I would politely say… “Give me a break.” Well ok, I would say that more to Ms. Parham than to the good doctor as I think Ms. Parham is clearly using advertising as a scapegoat, but the last time I checked we are all responsible for our own actions – we decide what we eat, yes? And as for children, call me crazy but I think parents should look themselves in the mirror if their child(ren) is eating too much fast food rather than blame an advertiser for “getting into their heads.”