The Cost Of Advertising For Consumers

What is your brand’s message, really? That’s an important question because behaviors ultimately create message in advertising. And the message and advertising brands create ultimately has a cost, not just for advertisers, but for consumers. That cost is value, and it resides along a spectrum which is benefit at its best and nuisance at its worst. And that value manifests as consumer love, indifference or hatred for a brand. The paradox is that the cost of advertising for consumers is seldom considered in advertising planning. Which is the crux of my latest MediaPost Spin column, full text below. Let me know what you think.

The Cost Of Advertising For Consumers

November 9, 2007 By Max Kalehoff

“What is your message, really?”

That was a critical and well-timed question that Ted McConnell, P&G’s director of interactive innovations, called out during a keynote panel at the recent Ad:tech New York.

He was describing a common phenomenon whereby advertisers get so caught up in elementary particles, mechanics, rationality or even bad intentions that they end up losing sight of what their message to prospects and customers truly is (or has mutated into).

What really forms message in advertising? Stripping away advertisers’ crafted words and imagery, one simple yet oft-overlooked dimension is the medium itself. The medium is far more than a vehicle; it is foremost an expression about your brand’s context in the world, a reflection of how deeply you invest in your brand, and a statement about a brand’s willingness to expose or interact. Think about what core messages a brand conveys simply by appearing on television versus in an interactive online forum, or nowhere at all.

After the medium comes content that surrounds your brand. Content in proximity of a brand heavily influences context and, ultimately, the message itself. Even the perception of the intended audience informs the meaning of the message we consumers derive. Then there’s timing – for timing your marketing message when receptivity is high can be a hugely powerful message about how well you know and care for your prospects.

As we unpack various factors contributing to overall message, an undeniable theme emerges: What really defines and emboldens your message has less to do with your actual words, and a lot do with the summation of your behaviors. These behaviors include communications and advertising, but also every other action credited to your brand in the minds of prospects and customers. Those behaviors are foundation of experience, and experience translates to brand equity.

In a pure communications scenario, this idea is brought to life by brands that aggressively seek to interrupt, intercept and coerce. These actions speak powerfully to brand meaning, irrespective of any message embedded within. These actions become the message; they become the experience; they become the brand. They become prime targets for ad-avoidance and ad-blocking. These are actions that cause your consumers to dislike you.

But when actions downright contradict a brand’s crafted message, things can really go south. During the Ad:tech panel, an undisclosed flower-delivery Web site was cited for abusing a customer’s email profile. The brand’s resulting message became: “We know you purchased from us in the past, we think you’re a sucker, so now we’re going to spam the hell out of you indefinitely.” Now said customer wishes said flower-delivery service would go to hell.

As I often say, we’re in a more sensitized age of advertising and messaging, and advertising tends to run along a spectrum. On the positive end, it can (and should) represent value or service. In the middle of the spectrum is indifference. And on the negative side is annoyance, insult or nuisance.

The beauty of this scale is that it literally represents the cost that consumers incur for advertising. Yes, the cost of advertising is distributed to far more than advertisers themselves! Yet the paradox is that the cost of advertising for the consumer is rarely factored into marketing strategy or advertising planning. This is important because that cost translates to brand experience, affinity and equity. Fundamentally, how often have you ever heard a marketer ask: “Does our advertising — ultimately, our message –cause our customers to love or hate us?” The closest advertisers come to addressing this question – and this was especially true at Ad:tech — is in discussion of thresholds of tolerance. Thresholds of tolerance? That sounds like a framework more suited for discussions of pain or torture.

I asked the panel and many other attendees during Ad:tech: Will advertisers in the future ever factor in the cost of advertising for consumers? Moreover, are love or hatred actual proxies of cost that we should meter and build into advertising accountability? While an intriguing idea, reaction to that question was littered with concerns over prohibitive costs, and sometimes indifference. Criticism is important, but to disregard the challenge outright in this age of ad avoidance and skepticism seems irresponsible. In fact, it sends a clear message: “We, the advertising industry, clearly don’t care.”

Well, we should care. It does matter whether your advertising and message makes your customers like or dislike you.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Join the Conversation


  1. Pingback: sxallpro
  2. Pingback: bitber

Leave a comment