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Responsible Marketing

Responsible or not? Advertising that distracts

By March 11, 2008March 31st, 20212 Comments

Ready to shut off your TV due to advertising?
As a marketer, I get frustrated when I see poor targeting, flat creative, lack of personalization, and any number of things one might find wrong when armchair quarterbacking someone else’s work. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve caught myself saying, “If only they could have…”

But I also get frustrated as a consumer.

Why do I get a catalog for yarn? How many times do I have to receive phone calls from people at dinner that don’t pay attention to do-not-call lists? How many ads can TV advertisers actually squeeze into an hour? Is it possible to hate the undulating dancers in online ads more?

I’m not alone. I’ve received a number of story ideas from blog subscribers and members of the Responsible Marketing groups on LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook. Most are marketers that know we can all do a better job than we are collectively doing now.

Bill Boyd, ABC, sent me an email today and he’s fed up too. Give this a read:

I was watching NBC last night. They do something especially annoying. It’s apparently not good enough to flash the titles of upcoming shows on the screen following every commercial break. They’ve taken to leaving the title of the next show on the screen all the time, right above the peacock and the Olympic rings. This is a serious distraction, and it’s a reminder that TV these days is totally about the Benjamins. Which is why much of it is an open sewer, but that’s another discussion.

In this era of TiVo and other DVRs, what’s to be gained by relentlessly putting the next show in our collective faces? For many people, either they recorded it or they didn’t. NBC gets a Beelzebub Award for cheapening their actual product in a tawdry effort to keep their audience. (Might better shows be a more effective answer?) To me, it’s just another reminder that my TV has an ‘off’ switch.

I’ve heard the argument that this practice is fairly analogous to print advertising in magazines and is no different from web advertising. Does that make it any better?

In the age of info glut, anyone marketing their business that wants to break through should be considering alternative ways to reach their audiences. And the truth is, I want my client’s ads to agitate people enough to get attention. But what happens when marketing becomes so distracting it destroys the user experience?

Is it responsible because it gets their attention? Or irresponsible because it gets their attention in the wrong way?

What do you think?

PS: If you love to hate the dancing couple, check out a whole directory of LowerMyBills ads on, where you’ll find the “world’s tastiest collection of online advertising.” Good stuff.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Thanks for the plug, Patrick! I appreciate it.

    As you may recall, the NYT investigated the infamous online ads from LowerMyBills and found that they’re extraordinarily effective at generating leads. They may fly in the face of all that we’re taught as creative professionals, but they work. It’s a major reason why the ads seem to be in your face, everywhere you turn.

    So quite a dilemma for an agency: online ads that are distracting and annoying to us as consumers, but deliver incredible results for a paying client.

    Have you ever encountered a situation like this yourself?

  • Wasn’t a plug, just attribution.

    You are spot on and I see this all the time. It’s actually one of the main reasons this forum exists. Responsible Marketing is “where commerce and conscience come together,” after all!

    Responsible Marketing is almost always a dilemma, unfortunately. Part of being message responsible is respecting your audience, which the LowerMyBills ads fail to do. But they deliver the goods, and that’s ROI responsible – a necessary ingredient of Responsible Marketing.

    Thanks for the great post.

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