Brands Matter

Ads are changing, and we should be happy about it

Shifting consumer behavior is changing the world of advertising as we know it, says Bill Wirtz. 

We have come along way in the evolution of the advertising business. The Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters, while the Middle Ages made us transition to town criers and billboards. But even trademarks are much older than many would think – the first trademark dates back to 1300 BC in what is India today. Advertising is simultaneously a reflection of reality and a gross over-exaggeration of consumer expectation – they are flashy, they are gross, they feature musicians and actors. Some ads are so entertaining that viewers tune in to watch them, and they generate massive clicks on video platforms such as YouTube.

Terrestrial TV is a good example of how some service have only been ad-funded for a long time already. With the popping up of online advertising we’ve seen entire newspapers switch gear on their business models. The Guardian – which isn’t exactly the defender of modern capitalism – raises more money online than it does through print. No wonder – online advertising is better for advertisers and consumers. Targeted advertising tells the company that posts the ad if it is actually viewed and clicked on – something that you cannot guarantee in any way on TV or radio. On the video platform YouTube, the company says that you only pay for your ad if people choose to watch it:

“For example, when someone chooses to view your TrueView ad for at least 30 seconds or engages with your ad – like clicking on a call-to-action overlay, a card or a companion banner.”

This certainly applies to myself: as a craft beer enthusiast, Google and Facebook ads constantly tell me about the latest beer releases. Why should I be upset? I get to use a free online service, and in return I get informed about products I like? It would be strange to claim that this is somehow worse than the old days, when I’d be shown things I don’t actually buy, such as women’s hygiene products, or new car tyres.

There is also a common assumption that advertising is a form of brainwashing, constantly bombarding is with things we don’t want until we end up buying it. It poses the ancient old question: can you make someone buy something that they do not want? The American legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who was Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under the Obama administration published an essay entitled “Fifty Shades of Manipulation“, in which he labels conventional marketing as manipulation. He writes for instance: “It is important to acknowledge that in the commercial realm, manipulation is widespread; it is part of the basic enterprise.”

Yes, when companies advertise health benefits of their products that cannot be proven, then they are intentionally misleading their customers. However, this is miles away from advertising a product as being cool, refreshing, comfortable, or trendy. Are we to define the mere fact that a product is being described by the producer as “good”, as manipulation? Because by this same standard, I could feel equally manipulated by the fact that Sunstein calls a book he edited himself, “relevant” (which he did).

You couldn’t sell anyone a candle as a means of replacing electric bulbs, but you can advertise products in a positive fashion. Of course advertising works, otherwise there would be no point it. However, the assumption that it is bad having ad-based services, and online and offline users being exposed to them, that is retrograde thinking. Many careers, including those of free-lance journalists, have been made possible through modern advertising. Many consumers happier about having specific targeted ads online, as opposed to being bored by their TV.

Advertising is changing because we are changing as consumers.

Originally published here

Les publicités changent, et il faut s’en réjouir

En tant que consommateur, vous sentez-vous manipulé par la publicité ? Ou bien est-ce un moyen efficace, voire distrayant, de vous offrir ce que vous voulez ?

Nous avons fait des progrès dans l’évolution du secteur de la publicité. Les Egyptiens utilisaient le papyrus pour faire des messages de vente et des affiches murales, tandis que le Moyen Age nous faisait passer aux crieurs publics et aux panneaux publicitaires.

Même les marques de commerce sont plus anciennes que beaucoup ne le pensent. La première marque remonte à 1 300 av. J.-C., dans ce qui est l’Inde aujourd’hui.

La publicité est à la fois un reflet de la réalité et une exagération vulgaire des attentes des consommateurs : elles sont flashy, elles sont grossières, elles mettent en scène des musiciens et des acteurs. Certaines publicités sont tellement divertissantes que les téléspectateurs font en sorte de les regarder, et elles génèrent des clics massifs sur des plateformes vidéo telles que YouTube.

La télévision terrestre est un bon exemple de la manière dont certains services ne sont financés que par la publicité depuis longtemps.

Avec l’apparition de la publicité en ligne, nous avons vu des journaux entiers changer de modèle d’affaires. Le Guardian – qui n’est pas exactement le défenseur du capitalisme moderne au Royaume-Uni – recueille plus d’argent en ligne qu’en version imprimée. Pas étonnant, car la publicité en ligne est meilleure pour les annonceurs et les consommateurs.

La publicité ciblée indique à l’entreprise qui affiche l’annonce si elle est réellement visionnée et cliquée, quelque chose que vous ne pouvez garantir d’aucune façon à la télévision ou à la radio. Sur la plateforme vidéo YouTube, l’entreprise explique que vous ne payez votre annonce que si les gens choisissent de la regarder :

“Par exemple, lorsque quelqu’un choisit de visionner votre publicité TrueView pendant au moins 30 secondes ou s’engage avec votre publicité  comme cliquer sur un call-to-action overlay, une carte ou une bannière d’accompagnement.”

Cela s’applique certainement à moi-même : en tant qu’amateur de bière artisanale, les publicités Google et Facebook m’informent constamment sur les dernières sorties de bière. Pourquoi devrais-je m’énerver ? J’utilise un service en ligne gratuit, et en retour je suis informé des produits que j’aime.

Quelle manipulation ?

Il serait étrange de prétendre que c’est pire qu’autrefois, quand on me montrait des choses que je n’achète pas, comme des produits d’hygiène féminine ou des pneus de voiture neufs.

Il y a aussi une supposition commune que la publicité est une forme de lavage de cerveau, nous bombardant constamment avec des choses que nous ne voulons pas. Elle pose la vieille question : peut-on faire acheter à quelqu’un quelque chose qu’il ne veut pas acheter ?

Le juriste américain Cass Sunstein, qui était administrateur du Bureau de l’information et des affaires réglementaires sous l’administration Obama, a publié un essai intitulé “Fifty Shades of Manipulation“, dans lequel il qualifie le marketing conventionnel de manipulation. Il écrit par exemple :

“Il est important de reconnaître que dans le domaine commercial, la manipulation est répandue ; elle fait partie de l’entreprise de base.”

Oui, lorsque des entreprises font de la publicité sur des bienfaits pour la santé de leurs produits, qui ne peuvent être prouvés, elles induisent intentionnellement leurs clients en erreur. Cependant, c’est loin d’annoncer un produit comme étant cool, rafraîchissant, confortable ou à la mode.

Doit-on définir le simple fait qu’un produit est décrit par le producteur comme “bon”, comme une manipulation ? Car, selon ce même critère, je me sentais également manipulé par le fait que Sunstein qualifie un livre qu’il a lui-même édité de “pertinent” (ce qu’il a fait sur Twitter).

Vous ne pourriez vendre une bougie à personne pour remplacer les ampoules électriques, mais vous pouvez faire de la publicité positive pour vos produits. Bien sûr, la publicité fonctionne, sinon cela ne servirait à rien.

Cependant, l’hypothèse selon laquelle il est mauvais d’avoir des services basés sur la publicité est une pensée rétrograde. De nombreuses carrières, y compris celles de journalistes free-lance, ont été rendues possibles grâce à la publicité moderne. De nombreux consommateurs sont heureux d’avoir des publicités ciblées spécifiques en ligne plutôt que de s’ennuyer avec leur téléviseur.

La publicité change parce que nous changeons en tant que consommateurs.

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Latvia proposes ban on alcohol advertising

The Latvian Health Ministry has proposed a ban on all alcohol advertising, including television, radio and online – a move the Consumer Choice Center has criticised.

he plans were included in the Latvian Health Ministry’s draft of its national health strategy, and included a proposal to limit the availability of alcohol at certain points of sale.

However, the Consumer Choice Center, which represents consumers in more than 100 countries and monitors regulatory trends, said the ministry was “going down the wrong path with this strategy”.

Bill Wirtz, senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, commented: “Alcohol is a legal product, therefore consumers should be allowed to be informed about it. The belief that a restriction of advertising reduces alcohol-related health concerns is antiquated.

“The ministry also believes it needs more monitoring of the illegal alcohol market in the country. But there is no need for long investigations: high alcohol taxes have created a fertile ground for this shadow economy.

“Talinn and Riga have recognised this fact by moving to reduce taxes on alcohol. This national health strategy of banning advertisement, however, goes down the way of Lithuanian alcohol policies, which get stricter by the year, without showing added benefits.

“Patronising consumers and educating them are two fundamentally different things. It appears the Latvian government does not yet know how to tell both apart.”

Read more here

Campaigners speak out against latest plain pack recommendations

Maria Chaplia, media associate at the Consumer Choice Center, also voiced her concerns over the report. She said that nannying consumers by taking the responsibility for food choices off their shoulders is “a curse in disguise”.

“There is no one who denies the importance of addressing obesity. Yet there is a huge disagreement on how to solve the issue.

“The options on the table are either to limit consumer choice by proceeding with plain packaging, taxes, and other bans, or to encourage responsible parenting and physical activity without trumping on anyone’s choices. The latter is the preferred way forward.”

She added: “Plain packaging of tobacco products is driven by similar public health considerations. However, regardless of the equally noble motives in place, its failures are numerous and evident.

“The British obesity problem is rooted in the lack of physical activity, not in consumption preferences. According to Public Health England, physical activity in the UK declined by 24% since the 1960s.

“By pushing forward the plain packaging of foods, its proponents are simply shooting in the wrong direction.”

She concluded that “the most unacceptable part” of the IPPR’s plain packaging scheme is that it stems from the assumption that it knows what choices are better for individuals.

“Though framed to be in the public interest, this is highly pretentious. Not only does this belief undermine the ability of consumers to decide for themselves, but it also blocks their access to the information about the products they buy and consume.

“Information is dispersed through branding. Plain packaging is aimed to make our life plain of choices.”

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Sweets, crisps and sugary drinks should have plain packaging, says think tank

In response to the report, Maria Chaplia, media associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The British obesity problem is rooted in the lack of physical activity, not in consumption preferences. According to Public Health England, physical activity in the UK declined by 24% since the 1960s. By pushing forward the plain packaging of foods, its proponents are simply shooting in the wrong direction.

“The most unacceptable part of the IPPR’s plain packaging scheme is that it stems from the assumption that it knows what choices are better for individuals. Though framed to be in the public interest, this is highly pretentious. Not only does this belief undermine the ability of consumers to decide for themselves, but it also blocks their access to the information about the products they buy and consume. Information is dispersed through branding. Plain packaging is aimed to make our life plain of choices.”

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