It’s finally happened. I am what I thought would never be: virtually unreachable through traditional media advertising. And by this, I mean, of course, media that isn’t delivered through a digital device.
What’s more interesting, perhaps, is that I’m not a millennial — my kids are. The shift in my media habits has been sneaky and darn near imperceptible over the years. There’s been no dramatic personal proclamations along the way. I’m not a cord cutter, for instance, but my consumption of broadcast and cable TV is at a lifetime low. I hang onto the subscription for college football season and, even then, my fall Saturdays aren’t consumed by games like they once were.
Apple TV is where it’s at for me these days. Local television news used to be my morning soundtrack, but I’ve drifted to tablet reading of a couple ad-suppressed national digital news sources over breakfast. Drive time radio was once my companion to and from the office, but that was long ago. Local terrestrial radio was one of the first casualties of my media migration. It’s been commercial-free SiriusXM for at least a decade.
I’m also a podcast junkie and I zip through commercial breaks. I know this is heresy for an advertising professional. But the reward for tuning my media environment to my taste is sweet: I can’t recall the last time I watched a live report of a car chase on TV. It could have been OJ.
So, how do advertisers reach me? As an ad professional it’s something I think about often and my answer is a little unnerving. I simply cannot remember the last time I took action as a result of advertising. I think I may have signed up for a shopping service after seeing a promoted post on Facebook. Or did a friend tell me about it?
It’s not that I don’t see advertising, of course. It’s just that I seem to see it much later in the buying process. I just ordered a new GMC truck but only after I’d searched copious amounts of information on various models and made my decision did I begin seeing ads served for the exact vehicle I’d already chosen. It was even the same color, which would be creepy if I didn’t know how that was done. I suppose it’s a nice way to ease my post-decision dissonance, but is that the best the auto industry can do with the billions it spends? Apparently, it is.
This is a little disorienting for me as a seasoned ad professional. I once thought I could detect a little cause and effect with respect to media placement. Yes, digital is the most quantifiable medium in the history of ever, but causation is only straightforward for closed-loop online purchases. The rest can be just as confusing as it ever was. But the saving grace is still effectiveness.
I watch advertising programs work and work well every single day for my clients. It’s just that I’m not sure our contemporary advertising world would be all that strange to John Wanamaker who famously remarked, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” He died in 1922.
MIKE SULLIVAN is president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on any of our more than 300 posts.