Bright lights – or wasteful marketing?

streetWhen was the last time you looked at the buildings around you? Can you describe them?
What seems like an obvious question, is likely do be quite a challenge depending on where you live – thanks to marketing. Let me explain: I recently visited Cuba, where marketing communications (at least if it does not promote socialist/communist propaganda) is banned. This ban has a really interesting effect: Even when walking down main streets, or standing on squares, one’s attention is drawn to the buildings with no other “ambient noise”. I’ve always been pretty sceptical when it comes to ambient advertising – especially when overdosed. Think streets in some Far Eastern countries, or Piccadilly Circus for that matter. Walk along there, and the lights are dazzling and (at first) give a real buzz effect. But now think again: What adverts are there? Is there a MacDonald’s ad over a Burger King restaurant – or was it a Coca-Cola ad – or Pepsi? Sprite? The problem is total oversaturation. Sure, attracting attention is all very good – but it does come with problems: Badly targeted, wasteful advertising doesn’t just add sparkle to the streets – it also has an inflationary effect. The more there is, the more you need to cut through the clutter. Adverts at Piccadilly Circus (or Times Square etc) have to resort to interactive elements to make them work. Some of these may be in keeping with the brand image – other gimmicks, such as interactive displays, are more attention grabbers – and have probably nothing to do with the brand being advertised. Sure, grabbing attention is according to the AIDA model (or any other model of consumer behaviour) a key factor in marketing. BUT (and this is a big but), simply grabbing attention is also not enough. Unfortunately, many current marketing communication professionals seem to focus too much on attention – and too little on moving consumers through the other stages of the buying decision process. Of course, I understand that “keeping up with the Joneses” is a pretty important goal for many advertisers (no matter what the cost?).  If we accept that advertising (and especially ambient advertising in some places) is already in a catch 22 situation, what is the solution? Ever more interactive adverts? Self-Regulation? Governmental regulation? Or simply understanding that while it’s great to “keep up” it’s more important to deliver a bang for a buck. So rather than wildly spending advertising money for ever brighter displays , maybe it’s time for some marketing professionals to stop, think and calculate the (real) ROI?

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