Here’s a New Year’s resolution that advertising might want to make: stop deliberately annoying people.
I can take the odd shitty TV ad (actually more like 95% of them), the general dross on the radio, the invisible wallpaper that bulks up my magazines and newspapers, and the ugly messes that seem to count as posters these days. I don’t really notice much of that. I’d prefer it to be better but in my mind it’s basically neutral: a sea of beige blancmange, custom made to be ignored.
But the internet banners, the cack I have to sit through while waiting for movies to start, the perfume ads of heavy stock that I rip out of magazines because they stop me flicking through them… These are the limp sex pests of the industry: unwanted, unloved and unlikely to take no for an answer.
When people say they don’t like advertising I don’t think they mean most ads. Most ads are a colossal waste of money, but they’re not actively annoying. Of course, if every ad was a nailed-on crowd pleaser that inspired rapturous chat across the globe that would be wonderful, however I’m enough of a realist to know that would be a bit of a tall order.
No, we all know exactly what kind of advertising is hated because we all hate it, and yet many of us persist in polluting people’s lives with the very thing we abhor. Admit it: you’ve cursed the bastard corporation that has made you wait 5 or 15 seconds for your YouTube clip; you’ve muttered ‘Oh, not this one again’ as you’ve sat there in your £10 seat, waiting for the real entertainment to start; and you’ve taken a deep loathing to the words ‘sponsored post’ on your Instagram and Facebook feeds.
So why do we as an industry continue to put it out there? It’s as if many of us have decided that it’s worth being hated as long as you’re seen, and perhaps there are some benefits to that. We all know irritating campaigns that have managed to stick in our minds, possibly becoming liked over time by some weird kind of osmosis. But the vast majority of these kind of ads are simply a negative experience to be endured, and what does that really do for the brand that has paid so much to elicit these feelings, or the industry that creates more annoyance and unhappiness for the planet?
And you can’t avoid them like you can avoid Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, or Jordan’s latest bestseller. You have to actively get rid of the things if you can, or sit there while your annoyance increases if you can’t. Imagine if your favourite chair came with a shitty chair that you had to keep beside it, or if you had to eat some rancid liver along with your perfect fish and chips. It would really make you hate whoever was behind such a weird set of circumstances.
So, inevitably, we have several varieties of adblocker. They don’t help with every interruption, but they do a fine and welcome job that shouldn’t need to be done. If the ads are bad enough to need blocking then surely they shouldn’t be produced in the first place. A vast chunk of the industry seems to be like a sweaty man with halitosis who can’t understand why the ladies are heading in the other direction. Actually, it’s worse than that: he knows why they run but he still goes out on the pull every night without taking a shower or changing his pants.
It’s absolutely barking, and the least we can do is stop putting out work that causes damage we’re fully aware of. Otherwise we seem both annoying and stupid – hardly a pair of adjectives anyone should deliberately set out to apply to themselves.
Happy New Year!