Brace yourselves, ad agency folks. Despite the love and pride you feel for your slick 30-second spots, your flashy rich media banners, your brilliant media placement strategies—there are people out there that don’t like your work all that much, and they’ll do whatever they can to avoid it.
That’s the take-away from a wide ranging study conducted jointly by Microsoft and Starcom, with help from researcher Millward Brown, which reads like a script for a film titled Nightmare on Madison Avenue. The report, Lifestyles of the Ad Averse, found that between 10% and 15% of adults 17-35 fall into the category of “ad avoiders” i.e. folks that don’t like advertising, and generally find it “annoying.”
The two companies, after conducting a series of intense interview and observation sessions with dozens of self-proclaimed avoiders in Denver and New York, discovered two types: passive avoiders who simply can’t be bothered with ads, and active avoiders, whose message to advertisers is “be good or be gone.”
The active group is more likely to be young, tech-savvy men who deliberately consume media that has no ads, like DVDs and satellite radio. The passive group is comprised of women, often parents, who gravitate to leisure activities that are untouched by ads, such as books or board games.
Avoiders of all stripes represent a scary prospect for marketers. “This is the kind of stuff that keeps us up at night,” said Beth Uyenco Shatto, research director at Microsoft.
Both groups’ habits make them hard to reach by conventional means. Twelve percent of avoiders surveyed said they watch less than one hour of TV per week versus just 3% among non-avoiders. Both index low for listening to the radio and reading magazines. And technology like DVRs and the iPod is only making it easier for these avoiders to shun ads.
So what’s a brand to do? According to Uyenco Shatto, advertising needs to become more optional, more creative and more relevant. “If you really want to make an impact you really have to customize your message,” she said. “Plus, the more interactive you get, the more convincing you are.”
That impacts messaging, but also media strategy. “We have to think more creatively,” said Tom Willerer, director of insights & analytics for Starcom IP. “It’s about trying to buy what’s not for sale. Is this easy? No. But we’re viewing this as a creative problem to solve. This is the new reality of doing business.”