Who Really Pays for Advertising?

Although I am in the advertising industry, I have a hard time with the constant bombardment of ads on television and I have avoided subscribing to cable until my recent engagement.  My fianc√© has been a cable subscriber for some time and it looks like this will be one of many battles to come that I will lose. Having spent more time watching television as of late, it didn’t take long to remember why I wasn’t a subscriber.

Where ever I go, I am constantly observing various communications, whether they be in print, on air, via email or in other digital medium, but the low quality and frequency of ads on television really turn me off. I would much rather watch Netflix and avoid the ads all together or watch shows on Hulu Plus and watch minimal ads. This way, my time is spent watching the content I actually want and isn’t wasted watching a ton of ads.

The reality is, my time is valuable and even though I have chosen to relax, the several minutes of ads dispersed through television advertising is time I could be spending working on client projects, posting to my blogs, doing research or many other things that bring value to me as a professional. While every once in a while I see an advertisement that I can learn from, for the most part, I see TV ads as a waste of my time.

Trying to understand why I feel this way, I started beginning to think about who pays for these ads.  Most consumers would think that it is the marketer who is responsible for these ads – and in a way they are.  They made the decision to place the advertisement and they stroked the check to get their message out there, but the ads wouldn’t be running if it didn’t lead to buyers – buyers who’s money leads to profits for the advertiser, who is then able to run even more advertisements. Looking at it this way, the consumers are the ones paying for the ads.

So, not only are we as consumers responsible for these advertisements, but our valuable time is spent watching these ads while we are trying to consume entertainment content we set out for. Double whammy!

So you may be wondering why me, a marketing professional, has such a problem with this, but there is a moral. I will never tell anyone not to purchase advertisements. Ads lead to business success which supports our livelihood, which leads to more jobs and money for consumers to support our businesses. What is important, however, is that we have a responsibility as marketers to give the people who pay for our ads something of value. We must make people laugh and cry; we must make people feel angry or feel good. We have a responsibility to think of how we can make people feel included and give them more than just a desire to buy our products. We have to do everything but waste their valuable time.

In the digital world, people won’t sign up for your newsletter just because you have one, they won’t like your Facebook page just because you have a presence there, they won’t keep coming back to your website because it always has the same content. Our audience engages because we are giving something to them that they find valuable. This creates loyalty and this loyalty will lead to happy customers who buy our products and services. They will also share their happy customer stories with their friends and tell them about the great value we have created for them with our blogs, clubs, interactivity, funny advertisements and everything else that we inject in our valuable messages.

Remember that it is your responsibility to be there for the consumer who is looking for your offering, but beyond that, if we are going to intrude on people who are just looking to relax and enjoy their favorite show or spend a few minutes browsing the web, we must ensure that our message is more than just a request to buy what we’re selling.