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Marketing Confessions

Five Annoying Things About Ads: Confessions of A Marketing Strategist

As a marketing strategist, I am exposed to a lot of marketing. Not just in my job, but also in my everyday life (did you know that the average person is exposed to over 4,000 ads per day?) 

It is my job to analyze trends and data which help our clients allocate their marketing budgets in an effective and profitable way. I consider myself a student of marketing. Not just radio ads, every piece of marketing I see gets an added layer of scrutiny from behind my fancy marketing goggles (in my head they look like this).

Since I see so many ads and create ads, there are certain things I notice continuously that have become pet peeves.

#5 Video ads with only music 

You are scrolling on social media and you see a video ad. Some generic music bed floats into your ears and the business’ logo pops on screen then disappears. And then you scroll by. Or the thing you wanted to watch starts playing and you could give a rat’s patootie about whatever was just on your screen. 

This ad is not utilizing the intrusive part of the medium. Intrusive ads are NOT “pushy invasive, unwelcomed, irrelevant ads” (I’ll talk more about these “annoying” ads later). The intrusive aspect is the part you hear. In broadcasting, we say “you can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears”. 

Visual-only ads are fine and dandy for those who are looking for that product or service, but if you aren’t in the market for that product, why would you notice it? Your brain is constantly filtering out information it deems unnecessary, and since you are exposed to over 4,000 advertisements per day, how many of those can you recall?

So use your ad to tell me about you! Tell me, talk to me through audio. Because in the short term we retain 80% of what we see, but our brains create mental images based on not only what we see, but also what we hear, smell, taste, and touch (scientists refer to this as quasi-perceptual experience). And yes, even if a lot of people have video ads muted, your ad should include captions. Not only are they better for those who are hard of hearing, but I can at least see you’re trying to tell me something. And if your ad has an interesting and enticing “mental image” then people will be compelled to pay attention. If for example, you’re advertising “Psychedelic Kaleidoscope Marketing Goggles” well, that just might be interesting enough for me to turn my sound on!

That’s why McDonald’s can go from McDonald’s to Mickey D’s to “I’m lovin’ it” to “bah da bah bah bah”. And you know exactly what it sounds like when I say “bah da bah bah bah” even with no sound.

#4 Ads with phone numbers

How many phone numbers do you remember? I can remember mine, my husband’s, and Jenny’s. When was the last time you wrote down a phone number you saw or heard in an ad? When was the last time you were driving and contacted a phone number you saw on a billboard? April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month so keep your eyes on the road and just look up their phone number later (that is, if you can remember what you saw ;).

#3 Ads that say nothing

Here on the Mid-West Family Madison strategy team, we joke that our motto is “for all your strategy needs.” The goal of an advertisement is to get customers to think of you when they need what you’re selling, or to create a need in their mind for what you sell. If I can take your ad and replace your business name with one of your competitors, and the ad still makes sense, you’ve got a problem.

What mental image are you leaving  with your audience? So many ads during the past year focused on “these trying times.” If the goal of an ad is to make the customer want you, don’t position your ad around the global pandemic that we are desperately trying to avoid. We humans naturally move away from anything that makes us uncomfortable. Make me feel welcome; tell a story that evokes an emotion. Make me feel like I belong. Brands like Harley, Jeep, and Nike excel at making their customers feel like they are a part of something. Your brand can too.

#2 “I hate ads” 

Working in marketing, I have this conversation relatively often. “Oh you work in marketing? Have you heard/seen so-and-so annoying ad? I hate ads. I always skip them or change the channel.” It annoys me when people say they hate ads. Do you hate ads or do you just hate bad ads?! I hate bad ads too! That’s why I do what I do. If every ad was a compelling story that entertained and evoked emotion, we wouldn’t have to worry about suffering through the generic laundry list, “for all your blah blah needs.” There are ads that people love! Geico struck gold with this one recently. I want to create ads people love, if that sounds like something you’re interested in, email me!

The #1 thing that annoys me about marketing – the fact that it still works on me! 

After all the training and reading and exposure to all these bad ads, I am still impressed by the (very few) good ads out there. When you work in marketing you become the opposite of the normal population. I’m not normal because normal people train themselves to tune out ads and I am trained to look for ads. Yes, I will now be bombarded with ads for groovy goggles and yes I will probably buy a pair! So if I show up to our next meeting wearing them, just know you have some seriously good marketing ideas in your future.

Author Bio

Kiernan Tuohy
Kiernan Tuohy – Marketing Strategist

Kiernan Tuohy is a Marketing Strategist for Mid-West Family Madison. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She began working for the company as a sales representative and along with her work on the strategy team she is also a trained copywriter, part-time on-air host, and producer. Her favorite part of working for Mid-West Family is getting to meet and interact with the listeners. She was raised with a lifelong passion for radio and strives to bring that passion into every aspect of her job.


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