Once upon a time in the land of rabbit ears and three-network television, there was a great flap about subliminal advertising. It was rumored that certain advertisers embedded messages into programs for fractions of a second, with the intention of influencing viewers’ purchasing choices. We were outraged by this 1984-ish and un-American attempt at mind control.
My, how times and technology have changed! Our televisions suggest programs they predict we’ll enjoy based on our previous viewing choices, and electronic bookstores greet us by name when we visit their websites. These days we’re willing participants in our own seduction, happy to accept cookies from strangers in exchange for the convenience of having our passwords remembered.
In Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here, David Verklin and Bernice Kanner bombard the reader with examples of current marketing techniques that make George Orwell’s Big Brother seem like a benevolent and bumbling uncle. Kanner, a marketing expert and author of such books as The 100 Best TV Commercials and The Superbowl of Advertising : How the Commercials Won the Game, tells us in her preface that in the twenty-first century, “media became the hub of the trillion-dollar marketing and advertising world and David Verklin [is] the hub within that hub.”
Verklin serves as CEO and Chairman, respectively, of Carat Americas and Carat Asia-Pacific, the world’s largest independent media-buying operation. According to Verklin, rapid advances in types and delivery of media options have spurred marketers to involve advertising strategists throughout the ad creation process. “The choice of media,” says Verklin, “often determines the creative approach.”
Traditional media, such as television and newspaper, have to scramble to keep up in this age of rapidly evolving technology. For decades, marketers depended on the A.C. Nielsen ratings to help them determine the best placement for their television advertising. A much-viewed program (as determined by Nielsen homes’ surveys) commanded higher commercial time prices and promised the advertiser a hefty viewership. According to Verklin and Kanner, however, Nielsen no longer enjoys the clout it once did. First VCRs and now DVRs have completely remodeled our viewing habits. Now viewers are more likely to TiVo their favorite regularly-scheduled programs for later viewing, then skip the commercials when they actually watch the program. Live events, such as the Superbowl or awards shows, may have fewer viewers but are more likely to be watched in real time, with commercial advertising viewed and intact. According to Verklin and Kanner, “advertisers want to shirk shows that are the most likely to be TiVoed,” and understandably so. While it may be good business practice for advertisers, this leaves weekly television programs with waning commercial sponsors.
While TiVo presents new challenges for television, the Internet has the potential to send newspapers to the oblivion where laundry-bluing and corded telephones now reside. Constantly updating content on sites such as CraigsList, YouTube, MySpace, and Wikipedia can deliver news, information, and entertainment faster and more efficiently than any print media. In our fast-paced, multitasking, short-attention-span culture, these personal and interactive mediums are far more likely to give advertisers a bigger audience than traditional media, and for considerably less financial investment.
With technology changing daily, however, marketers have to learn by trial and error when they attempt to take advantage of the newest delivery methods. Verklin and Kanner point to the disastrous attempt by Chevrolet to engage web visitors. Chevy provided music and audio and invited visitors to create their own ads for the 2007 Tahoe, Chevrolet’s high-end SUV. The goal had been to start a viral email campaign generated by the amateur admakers; instead, a significant number of the ads pointed out the Tahoe’s excessive fuel consumption and its negative impact on the environment.
Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here is crammed full of content that showcases advertisers’ attempts to out-gimmick each other and outwit the public. In a world where the goal is to saturate and infiltrate the minds of consumers, one wonders – where are the boundaries of ethics and taste? Are there any?
Verklin and Kanner are experts in their fields and clearly enthused and amused by the frenetic world of marketing and media. In the old days, their book would have been consigned to specialty shelves and read only by those in the business. Today, though, their information resonates with most of us. No, this book won’t tell you how to attract millions of visitors to your blog, but it is both entertaining and informative, and certainly relevant because, like it or not, most of us are watching, listening, and clicking every day.