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
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
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