OPINION: Don’t ignore the public’s growing aversion to ads

Anybody suggesting that there is a danger attached to the public’s supposed high regard for advertising is likely to be as welcome at an agency as the wicked witch at Sleeping Beauty’s christening.

Anybody suggesting that there is a danger attached to the public’s

supposed high regard for advertising is likely to be as welcome at an

agency as the wicked witch at Sleeping Beauty’s christening.



But the Independent Television Commission has proved just such a

party-pooper with its finding that more than a third of TV viewers feel

they are being so over-fed with ads that they are suffering collective

indigestion.



Like the fairytale princess, the ad industry may benefit from a timely

warning about remaining awake to long-term threats. It’s all very well

to ride a tide of consumer approbation but the ITC’s report indicates

navigational hazards ahead.



The most serious of those is the self-delusion that TV advertising’s

power to persuade will not diminish. Casting doubt on that assumption,

the ITC finds that almost half the population believes TV advertising to

have reached unacceptably intrusive levels.



More disturbing still is the fact that in the cable and satellite area -

where the future of TV advertising lies - almost 45 per cent of viewers

complain they are already getting too much of it. This shouldn’t come as

a surprise. Shelling out a monthly subscription for the privilege of

watching more advertising than ITV carries must seem ridiculous to the

average satellite viewer.



While the ITC’s findings are not a reason to panic - advertising in the

UK still enjoys a 75 per cent approval rating - they should not be

ignored.



So called ’ad avoiders’ are a growing phenomenon and video recorders

which will automatically zap commercial breaks are in production. It’s

something the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers ought to bear

in mind as it tries to batter down the BBC’s doors.



Ironically, the clearest thing to emerge from the ITC’s report is the

ambivalence of consumers towards TV advertising. While a worryingly

large proportion see ads as a good excuse for a comfort break, many more

find commercials entertaining and informative.



Maybe the time has come for a comprehensive and definitive study into

how consumers really feel about ads. Otherwise, a complacent industry

may find itself addressing audiences as receptive as Sleeping Beauty’s

slumbering courtiers.