Letters - 13-20 December 2005

Viacom Outdoor, Media Incorporated, Tri-Direct, London's Talking



SUE TODD, Marketing director Viacom Outdoor

Ad avoidance has long been one of the industry's great unmention-ables, but even if certain sectors of the media industry still choose not to talk about it, their clients are certainly starting to.

With this in mind, Viacom Outdoor launched an in-depth study earlier this year of the attitudes of Londoners towards advertising and their propensity to actively avoid different forms of commercial communication.

Viacom Outdoor's research, which has been endorsed by the Outdoor Advertising Association, is unequivocal in its findings: consumers do avoid ads, they have strong views on where they would prefer ads not to be, but - and it's a hugely important one - the degree to which ads are avoided differs massively across the range of available media. And, if the environment is right, consumers actively welcome ads: in fact, they see them as adding value to the experience.

The growth in internet advert-ising this year has been impressive, but our findings suggest a huge disconnect between the flow of money into the medium and consumers' attitudes to the advertising they find on the net. Being just a mouse-click away, a massive 78% of Londoners consciously avoid online ads, a far higher figure even than the 50% who say they avoid ads on TV, radio and newspapers, or magazines.

When it comes to avoiding ads on TV, we found clear evidence that consumers have become significantly more conscious of their ability to skip commercials. Asked if they now avoided ads on TV more than they did 10 years ago, 44% of Londoners confirmed they did, while a further 20% agreed it was probable and just 3% said they were not sure.

What about out-of-home media? When asked which media they thought carried the right amount of advertising, 74% of Londoners thought the level of advertising on buses was about right, while the Tube scored 68%, bus shelters 67% and billboards 62%, with just 18% naming the internet and 26% TV.

Across the board, out-of-home advertising ranks below other media when it comes to ad-avoidance; with the Tube on 33% emerging as the media environ-ment with the lowest levels of avoidance.

Consumers clearly feel compelled to protect their time and are increasingly choosing to miss advertising messages on some media because they see them as intrusive and irritating, or an unwanted distraction.

It's when advertising plays a role as valuable content - as it does when travellers are waiting for their train on Tube platforms - that it generates true affinity and engagement, and becomes a welcome experience.

With the arrival of PVRs in ever growing numbers, increasing use of services such as the Tele-1phone Preference Service and online ad blockers, it's an issue which advertisers, agencies and media owners will find harder and harder to avoid.


ALAN PHILLIPS, Founder, Media Incorporated

In the opening sentence of Alastair Ray's report about media credits (Why IPG's stance on media credits sparks debate, page 24, 29 November), it is stated that media volume bonuses are totally legal.

This misses the point that failure to pass the benefits of these on to clients may, however, not be.

Firstly, it may be a breach of the actual contract not to rebate all negotiations.

Secondly, it could be in breach of the implied contractual condition of the agency using its best endeavours on the client's behalf, certainly if it has ever been stated that all negotiations are for the client's benefit.

Thirdly, it may constitute unfair competition and trading by misrepresenting the true pricing.

This probably explains why many agencies are so nervous and defensive about this whole area of operating.

IPG is to be applauded for highlighting and bringing an end to (as far as it is concerned) these dubious practices.


LUCY STAFFORD, Director of media Tri-Direct

While I wholeheartedly agree with Doreen Dignan's assertion that gender lines are blurring and consumers are aligning along interests and attitudes rather than traditional sex roles, using tools such as TGI, Cameo, existing customer profiles etc, offers greater variety and subtler targeting across the genders than those offered by the broad profiles in the feature (Women under the influence, page 4, Men and Women supplement, 29 November).

This we know ourselves from creating bespoke "pen portraits" to help us suggest the best possible media channels for our clients.

I think the PC issue is driven primarily by the discomfort that comes from the emotive descriptions of the key consumer groups.

All too often they can seem like the subjective and judgmental views of a (usually) male market-ing analyst. Of course, no one wants to be identified as "sad" or "insecure" or "desperate to be cool". And, as an Alpha Female, I don't like being dictated to, so I would say this, wouldn't I?


ALISON DRURY, Managing director London's Talking

Most of today's talk in the media world is of fragmentation and the customisation of consumer messages to the individual.

Technology is making this possible with everything from podcasting to texting weekly updates from favourite brands and the screening out of unwelcome ones.

The more we know about people, the more we can harness technology to communicate effectively with them.

So why isn't the world of market research and, in particular, the very personal world of qualitative face-to-face research, making a break with the past and employing this thinking in its provision of focus groups?

As media planners become, in many ways, keener to experience firsthand consumer insight than their advertising counterparts, shouldn't they be looking for partners in research companies who can provide them with fresh faces for focus groups? And shouldn't those faces be recruited from networks or databases with a wealth of personal information behind them?


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