I work in marketing and advertising. Know that first. But disregard it as soon as it sets in. Why? Because right now, I’m speaking as the c-word — a consumer. Mkay? Good.
I want to tell you about my day and all the messages I see and ignore. Those will be in RED. There are a few I care about. I’ll put those in GREEN.
6 am – Wake up. Let the dog out. Feed her (package design). Make coffee (package design and user interface and logo on the coffee maker).
6:15 – check my email (blah, blah, spam, spam) and to see if anyone has reached out to me on social media (paid placements, promoted tweets, no thank you I am not interested in your get-rich-quick seminar and don’t care about the Uber of undershirts.)
6:30 – My son, Jack, wakes up and we watch Sports Center (ESPN ads and a whole lot of penis pills) together while we make breakfast (organic farm fresh eggs trying to convince me to buy them again)
7:15 – Take the dog for a walk, pop in the ear buds and listen to some podcasts. (sponsor messages and fund drives that are more of a pain to fast-forward through than to ignore)
8:15 – Shower, shave (reminder I will never be an underwear model like the guy in the razor commercial) get dressed (labels)
8:35 – In the car and ready to go. More podcasts (see above), some radio (thank you Alan Thicke, but I think I’m square with the IRS) and billboards aplenty for the next 40 minutes. (wine, poker, reporting heroin dealers, ending periods forever, the lottery, a new attraction at a local theme park, ‘rent this sign’ and sales on leases for cars I can’t afford)
9:25 – Settle into my desk and check my e-mail (spam, spam, offer, spam, spam, oh look a newsletter from a brand I actually like). I might flip through the mail (escargot spam), thumb a magazine (inserts, more penis pills, something about custom shirts from China) and check my social accounts again (more paid posts I don’t care about, creepy stalker ads from retailers I browsed online a few weeks back, promoted tweets that don’t @mention me so I don’t care, noise on Instagram). If it’s a Monday, I’ll jump on YouTube to see what John Oliver had to say the night before (pre-roll I can’t skip fast enough) or, on Wednesday, I’ll check out the latest List Show from Mental_Floss (same, plus awkward brand mention in the intro and close).
Noon – After working a couple hours, trying to ignore my phone and pay attention during meetings without subconsciously checking social media (see above), I’ll take a break for lunch. I hop in my car and head to the local Kroger to raid the salad bar or grab some sushi (billboards, coupons, circulars, more packaging, in-store radio, more podcast sponsors, radio ads, social media invasions)
1- 5 pm – More work, more clicking around the internet (there go those retargeting ads again that show me something I looked at but are still somehow completely impersonal). Meetings, meetings, more email (SPAM!). Before I finish my day, I’ll check in on a few brands I love to see what they’re up to – mostly outdoor, mostly men’s stuff, but I actually seek them out (Patagonia and it’s quest to green the earth; Orvis and its vision for what my retirement will look like; Filson because I love how their story is interwoven into their products; the American Express Open Forum because I learn things there I didn’t know I wanted to learn). I’ll do some googling (paid search I couldn’t possibly care about and only click on because I find it so annoying I want the brand to pay for making me scroll to what I actually want to see). If I find some content I like, I’ll read it or watch it and chances are pretty good that I’ll followed a recommendation (Outbrain, Taboola, YouTube and Vimeo recommendations) especially if it truly matches my interests.
5:45 – My drive home looks a lot like my drive in (see above) except in the other direction. I try to unplug, have dinner with the kids, help with homework and chores before settling in to read (Kindle ads recommending books similar to the ones I have), tool around the internet (more paid search, display, creepy retargeting, DISHONEST NATIVE ADVERTS trying to convince me that the staff of Men’s Health actually recommends I take some root because LeBron did, social noise and SPAM!)
10 PM – Take the dog for another walk (podcast sponsorships, which I mind less in the evening for some reason), check my email (S-P-A-M) and watch my DVR (fast-forwarding over the same Fan Duel and Draft Kings ads over and over). Maybe I’ll do some writing. Maybe I’ll talk with my wife. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually go to sleep.
Why do I mention all of this? Because the going theory is that repetition and reach are the way to convince people to buy something. And if it doesn’t work, it’s just because people don’t pay attention.
I, as you might guess, disagree.
It’s not a lack of attention that makes spray and pray, slogan and image messaging miss with me. It’s that most of it is not worthy of my attention. Most of it is just more noise – clever noise to be sure – but noise nonetheless in an already noisy world. I’ll pay attention to marketing, probably more than the average bear – I am, after all, in the business. But the marketing I pay attention to the most closely is the marketing I can see myself in. I care about the planet (Patagonia). I dream of spending long days fishing (Orvis). I love it when content and commerce seamlessly intersect (the newsletter from Huckberry I mentioned). I like finding brands with the authority and insight to teach me things I want to learn (American Express), who create content relevant to the things I am interested (recommendation engines) and don’t try to fool me (native placement, keyword lead search), badger me (paid social), bore (pre-roll) or blind (display) me into submission. Or, do all those things, but have something interesting to say, a point-of-view I can align with, a sense of purpose I can aspire to.
Otherwise, what do you expect? That suddenly, after catching up on my friend’s dad passing away, sharing a picture of my kids and wishing happy birthday to my wife’s aunt I’m going to be interested in your seminar/penis pills/Uber-ized shirts? I think not.
Too often, marketers think of themselves and their tactics when they should be thinking about the person on the other end of the screen, speaker, billboard. We don’t ignore most of the 5,000 messages we see in a day. We just don’t have the context or reason to engage with them. We have no agency, no choice, no incentive and no voice when you shove it down our throats. And agency, choice, incentives and voice are the great benefits of life in this modern age.
It’s time my industry catches up and stops thinking like marketers and advertisers crazed for reach and awards and started thinking like people. To not do so seems like a wasted opportunity. I am, we are, after all paying attention, we just need better things to pay attention to.
How can it hurt?
This blog post might get me fired, but know the opinions here are mine and only mine. I just needed to get it off my chest.