Consumers in control

For the first time in the history of modern communications, consumers - en masse - have the choice to reject advertising. Worse for marketers, they're doing it. Ironically enough, and for a variety of reasons, marketers are too often pulling back from communicating with consumers in a way that will make the latter actually want to listen. They're not greenlighting great work, just safe work. But given that people are tuning out and turning off, it's never been more critical that marketers respond boldly. DDB Canada's Frank Palmer sends out the rallying cry.

For the first time in the history of modern communications, consumers – en masse – have the choice to reject advertising. Worse for marketers, they’re doing it. Ironically enough, and for a variety of reasons, marketers are too often pulling back from communicating with consumers in a way that will make the latter actually want to listen. They’re not greenlighting great work, just safe work. But given that people are tuning out and turning off, it’s never been more critical that marketers respond boldly. DDB Canada’s Frank Palmer sends out the rallying cry.

In the 1976 movie Network the on-air TV news anchor said: ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!’ In many ways, that’s how a large number of consumers today are expressing their listening, viewing and reading habits. They’re turning off all

advertising messages that don’t fit into their lifestyles in large numbers. Unless there’s a big emotional connect with them, they just don’t care.

Today we are living in a pull media arena rather than a push arena. The consumer is in complete control of what and when they want to watch, read or listen to. They can Zap, ZIP, Flip or TiVo unwanted, uninteresting advertising messages in a split second.

And we shouldn’t blame them, because the vast majority of ads produced today, by most of the advertising agencies, are bland, bad or simply boring. I realize that I’m at risk of upsetting my industry peers, but unless the tired 1970s-era agency model currently still in use is prepared to change so that clients get the ideas that move their share up and increase sales, the tumbling financial results through lost clients will not be pretty.

In order to be relevant and truly meaningful, ads must be entertaining and effective in reaching the consumer’s emotional chord. Unless agencies and marketing companies can discover or invent newer ways of connecting and bonding with the consumer, the product, service or brand will lose share. And agencies will continue to lose their Holy Grail ground.

Clients will have no choice but to turn their business over to individuals or companies that they see as having unique ideas that will grow their share. Trust me when I say there’s not much time left to fix things.

The winners in this new game will be the truly entrepreneurial agencies or marketers that have the ability to create experiences through effective storytelling that has influence over the emotions of our clients and customers.

Frank Palmer is president of Vancouver-based agency DDB Canada. He’s also on the cover of this month’s strategy, sans pants.

Who’s getting it right?

Microcell (Fido) and Telus. ‘[Advertising] can not just be ‘different,” says Claude Carrier, partner at Montreal-based Bos.

‘It has to be something that people feel good about. Our research points to Telus and Fido [a Bos client] doing the best job in [telecom advertising]. Every piece of communication has to have an emotional appeal to the consumers. Cellphones are a new generation phenomenon and [Telus] has adopted a personality for the brand that is reflecting this quite a bit – kind of young, trendy and cool. And [it's not about] necessarily being very rational. Sometimes you see that lizard and you can’t explain why it’s working. You just say, ‘You know, it kind of feels good. It feels right. It’s cute, it’s fun.’ People react to that.’