The times, they are a changin’

Digital technology is having a seismic effect on media and publishing as we know it. The latest indication comes in the form of two separate studies.

The first, undertaken by Forrester Research, showed that viral advertising is a much more effective way of engaging consumers than traditional advertising. At the same time, the survey of some 1,000 U.K. Internet users showed that most are "increasingly fed up with advertising as a whole."

In my opinion, viral advertising is a great example of the power of word-of-mouth in the consumer decision-making process. Forrester survey respondents said they pass viral ads along to their friends because they either found them "funny" or thought the person(s) on the receiving line would "…..find the product or service of interest." How powerful is that?

The Forrester survey also proved what many of us instinctively knew all along: consumers are becoming increasingly disenchanted with traditional advertisng. Just five percent of survey respondents believed that companies tell the truth in their ads, compared to eight percent two years ago. I sure hope marketers wake up and look at those percentages again. Talk about a poor ROI.

Digital has changed the communications model. Advertising’s approach of talking "at" consumers, instead of engaging in a dialogue "with" them is the industry’s Achilles Heel. Until the advertising moguls adapt to the sea changes underway, they’ll continue to see their model slip sliding away.

I found another survey equally fascinating. This one was undertaken on behalf of Parade Magazine, and revealed that one-third of Americans surveyed no longer read the Sunday papers. Respondents cited time constraints, lack of home delivery, a preference for TV news (ugh), and general lack of interest, period, as reasons why they bypass the Sunday papers.

In its own way, the Parade Magazine poll should be just as much of a wake-up call for newspaper publishers as the Forrester findings should be for ad moguls.

The times, they certainly are a changing. And, it’ll be fascinating to see how the advertising and traditional publishing sectors deal with the severe challenges to their previous, near monopolistic positions. In the meantime, public relations and non-traditional media continue to be the benefactors of the changing landscape.

2 thoughts on “The times, they are a changin’

  1. New Media Age (subscription only) covered the Forrester study…
    Viral ads best at engaging users as opinion of advertising sours
    Author: Andrew McCormick
    Source: NMA magazine
    Published: 06.15.06
    Viral advertising is a more effective way of engaging customers than other forms of advertising, according to a survey by Forrester Research. The research also revealed, however, that consumers are increasingly fed up with advertising as a whole.
    Almost 40% of over 1,000 UK Internet users surveyed said they regularly receive viral emails.
    A quarter of people receiving viral ads like them and a fifth send them on, the research found. A fifth also said that they base what products…
    Article continues below
    NMA Web Regsiter Call 020 7970 4834
    … they buy on the content of viral ads.
    The most common reasons for sending on viral emails to friends and family were ‘because it was funny’ (10%) and ‘because I thought they would be interested in the product’ (10%).
    Forrester also found that advertising is becoming less popular. Just 5% of users surveyed in Q4 2005 believed that companies tell the truth in their ads, compared to 8% in 2004.
    Over 70% of those surveyed said they’re annoyed by the amount of advertising they’re subjected to. This grievance was highlighted by only Reasons to forward marketing emails (% of respondents)
    61% of those who like viral emails.
    Viral has taken off as an ad medium in the past 12 months. While there’s no definitive metric for the size of the sector, specialist viral agencies and digital marketing agencies have reported a big increase in budgets this year (NMA 20.04.06).

  2. Steve,
    I really enjoy reading RepMan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The growth in WOM points to the shift that my former employer, Richard Edelman, is making a stand with; that there is money in the marketing budgets of companies that should be funnelled to PR as advertising becomes less effective.
    The big question here is how do we, as PR folks, pry that budget from(paraphrase Charlton Heston) “advertising’s cold dead hands.”
    Also, do you have a link to the FOrrester study?
    -Josh Morgan