Monday, December 6, 2010

Eliminating Utility In The Name of Revenue

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I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of advertising.  I know I'm not unique in this, with the exception of the clever and/or funny commercials that get shown during the Super Bowl it's rare that most of us have anything positive to say on this topic.

If you own a DVD of an old TV series you can tell that commercials were much rarer thirty years ago.  Half hour shows last twenty five minutes plus.  These days twenty minutes or so seems much more common.  Maybe this is why I seldom watch TV.  It seems like every time I'm getting interested in a program there  will be a commercial break.  Even the networks apparently realize that this is a problem as many shows spend a bit of time after each break reviewing what has gone before.  A cynic might think the real reason for this is that it allows them to stretch ten minutes of actual content into an hour but I'm certain they are just being courteous to their viewers.

My wife and I recently flew across the country on Jet Blue.  I'll say up front that my experience with them over the years have been almost exclusively favorable.  One of the things Jet Blue did early on to differentiate themselves from other airlines was to provide everyone with a small TV screen inset into the back of the seat in the next row up.  You can either use your own headphones or purchase a pair for $2.  There are thirty some odd TV channels available for your viewing pleasure.  The best channel for me, at least prior to this last flight was the one that showed the progress of the flight. To the left/above you can see an example of what I'm talking about.  The problem this time was that Jet Blue apparently decided this was a great place to insert some advertising.  And not just a little advertising.  I timed it and forty seconds of every minute featured an ad.  This meant that I often had to sit and watch for fifteen seconds or more before I got to see the information I cared about.  Eventually I just turned it off as the utility I used to get was now gone.

Maybe most people don't care.   To the best of my ability to judge I don't buy anything based off of the imprecisely targeted at best ads that are propagated via most media sources.  Word of mouth, research and the occasional well targeted Google ad are my sources.

OK, so maybe I make an occasional impulse buy as well.

Given that background it doesn't matter much that I'm not seeing those TV &  Jet Blue ads.  I have other ways of making product decisions.  However, while it might not matter to the products being advertised it should matter to the outlets.  I'm now a tiny bit less favorably inclined towards Jet Blue.

There was a time when a national brand could get coverage of nearly everyone in the United States by placing an ad on the three major networks.  The ever increasing fragmentation that cable brought has made that sort of coverage impossible; and yet based on what seems like steadily increasing ad volume advertisers still seem hell bent on reaching everyone.  This is disconcerting given the fact that much better approaches exist today.

Personally I'd like to see companies take a more disciplined and targeted approach to advertising.  Advertising is only one means of building a brand or product.  Providing customers with real value and good customer service are at least as important, particularly if the goal is long term growth and sustainability.

Image via Wikipedia
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