Enforced advertising stinks


Image courtesy of M&G

Time for a quick rant.

I have long felt that the one of the guiding principles for advertising is that it should do some good in consumer’s lives even if they chose to ignore or avoid it.

I may have no interest in the press ad at the bottom of my newspaper but it is helpfully subsidising the cost of my read, partially in most cases and completely with free sheets. I read once that the UK’s Guardian newspaper would cost £6 rather than 70p without advertising. So you see, the ad has done me some good and every other Guardian reading planner in North London.
Clearly this is also the case with advertiser funded free to air TV, much outdoor (where councils benefit from the income), advertising on public transport and obviously online where advertising often facilitates the delivery of entirely free product.
And this principle is one of the reasons I hate much ambient marketing that Russell describes as Urban Spam. Because the only beneficiaries of the activity are the brand owners and the people that chose to engage.
So why the hell do we have to put up with pre-roll advertising on DVDs? Or rather why to we have to put up with pre-roll advertising on DVDs that you cannot skip? Advertising that you are forced to watch despite paying through the nose for the content.
Theoretically this is no worse than your average interruptive TV ad but somehow the viewing experience of DVD movies means that enforced advertising of this nature is uniquely irritating. You’ve paid your money, you have sat down to be entertained by a movie you have chosen specifically to watch and you are made to endure an ad or two without the option to skip.
What scumbag at the distribution company faced with the option of allowing people to skip the ads and previews (as say Disney do because they understand the likelihood of pre-schoolers putting up with this nonsense) decides to enforce viewing to no benefit of the viewer? I have a very strong desire to beat them to death with sticks.
I recently experienced enforced advertising on a copy of Charlie Wilson’s War for a UN anti-aids message featuring minute after arse-grinding minute of Gwyneth Paltrow reading a poem. And don’t give me any of that simpering ‘its a good cause’ bollocks, it is but the ends never justify the means. The same weekend I had to put up with enforced Blue Ray advertising on The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a more considerable pain since I watched it over two nights and so had to have the message rammed down my neck twice.
Advertising may interrupt my life if it is doing some good in that life or facilitating my enjoyment of the advertising environment (whether TV channel or clean street). Advertising viewing must never be enforced, especially when the only beneficiary is the advertiser.
So movie distributers please cut the crap and let us skip all or any of the content on your DVD, especially when we have already paid you so handsomely for the movie in the first place.
Otherwise I will expect to buy my DVDs for £1 from now on.

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14 Replies to “Enforced advertising stinks”

  1. advertising for lotteries on the plane, when your only way to escape is to jump.

  2. A big salute to you Richard for taking up this issue. It drives me nuts – especially the intensely irritating “You wouldn’t steal a handbag”. Frankly, nothing else makes me more likely to steal a handbag than this, especially when it is on a DVD of a TV show with several episodes that I watch over two, or three nights. More specifically, it makes me more likely to download the damn shows via torrent so that I can enjoy the show unadulterated – thereby depriving the owners of the show of their revenue.
    Yes I would steal a handbag (or a car) if the only handbag I could buy blasted out this message every time I opened it up.
    Thank you for taking this on.

  3. Of course you’re going to be forced to watch ads on DVDs. While everyone is downloading films and ripping the arse out of the DVD market what the hell is the alternative? Don’t worry they wont be around much longer, you can watch ads on your downloads instead.
    I wish I had a moment in my day to stress about a 3o second ad on a DVD.

  4. Couldn’t agree more!
    Howard Gossage wrote brilliantly on the subject of advertising’s first responsibility being to its audience:
    “The buying of time or space is not the taking out of a hunting license on someone else’s private preserve but is the renting of a stage on which we may perform.”
    Enforced advertising treats the act of advertising as right, rather than a privilege.
    I for one, have taken to stealing handbags, just to f*****g teach them not to patronise me in the comfort of my own home.

  5. Is it the message of the advertisement or its placement that makes it intrusive? To illustrate my point, take Toyota advertising at the movies. It created an original piece of music created by Michael Fakesch , which was subsequently available for download via Bluetooth at 25 Vue cinemas. Toyota paid for 10,000 downloads assuming its target would be reached, which it did… in two days! And everybody knows the ‘film panel’ from Orange because they are entertaining and even highlight the repercussions from intrusion.
    So I agree – If advertisers can make messaging entertaining and engaging then consumers will forgive the intrusion or better, not even notice. But get it wrong and brands won’t even be a beneficiary and the likes of UN will actually achieve negative brand equity through assumptive and annoying advertising!

  6. I agree absolutely with most of that.
    Though I would say ambient marketing is ok when it provides entertainment value of sorts. I might refer to it as the smile test:
    If people smile when they see it, it’s ok.

  7. Tim, that’s great – I am a big fan of the orange at the movies adds but the nub of the enforced ad is its pervasiveness and, more crucially, the repetition. How funny do these ads become after 50 or more hearings?
    The anti-piracy messsage at the start of DVDs is not a bad ad – if I could remember the first time I saw it, I would probably have found it diverting. The problem is it is always there….. forever, which raises 2 issues: 1) the message loses impact (lets remember the lego ad flagged up by one of the respondents to an article a few months ago which was only shown a few times); 2) the inability to update (or pull) the message can’t be good for a considered marketing strategy.
    On a separate thread, every so often, someone comes up with the revolutionary idea of a free something (usually a computer). You do not pay a penny as long as you sign up to being bombarded with ads as part of the use. These products bomb – most people realise what the repercussions entail; those unwitting customers who do the deal find that after a few weeks (often days) the products are unusable. It doesn’t work, it antagonises and alienates the recipient, it debases the message.
    You really hit a raw nerve on this one.
    Let’s all steal handbags and use the cash to start a revolution.

  8. The message “You wouldn’t steal a handbag” is an apalling piece of targeting as it appears exclusively on legally bought DVDs.
    It is also logically flawed. There is patently an ethical distinction between theft and piracy. There is no absolute deprivation in the case of the latter, after all.
    But this is not just about advertising. To borrow a phrase from “Nudge”, the choice architecture of DVDs is atrocious. If I put a DVD in a player it should play the film by default. Even if I can’t find the remote, I should be able to insert a disk and watch the film right through. It should not display a moronic start-up screen which asks – as though these were equally likely choices – whether I want to
    1) Play the film
    2) Choose Latvian subtitles
    3) Watch the film with a spoken commentary by the key grip
    4) watch a film about the making of the film.

  9. In many aspects I agree with what you’re saying – especially with things like the DVD situation you describe [which even appear on the “cough-cough” dodgy versions which we get delivered to our Asian office each week] however I don’t know if many people would share your view that advertising [even if they can simply ‘ignore it’] is doing them a favour by lowering the price of the product they are currently enjoying.
    But then people are very good at ignoring the economies of life – hence they demand companies to be environmentally ‘friendly’ but not to the point their share value is affected.
    Hypocrites – the lot of us :)

  10. You’re right of course Rory – but do you remember when the very features you describe as an annoyance, were sold as ‘added value features and benefits’ by both the film and DVD manufactures?
    God we were duped!

  11. Anyone with a PVR/DVR despairs at the moronic nature of DVD navigation.
    Blu Ray my be a stop gap for the industry but DVD is a shit technology and will go the way of the 8 track.

  12. I agree we are programmed to see choice as a fundamental right, to have this taken away from us and to be subjected to content that we cannot escape grates, even if it may be relevant to our lives. As brands we should understand that consumers have a choice to purchase our products or not, simply forcing advertising on them is not going to have desired effect.

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