Are you the kind of person who likes advertising? The McCarthy Group, a consultancy, asked this exact question to a sample of Millennials five years ago. A full 84% percent said "No." Perhaps the other 16% worked in the ad industry.
It's no easier to find someone who likes ads today, no matter the generation, and brands are starting to take the hint. Companies like Apple, Nike, and even Church's Chicken have increasingly turned to film in the hopes of reaching commercial-fatigued consumers. Others have doubled down on experiential marketing and content marketing. Elon Musk's Tesla has even turned a lack of advertising into a brand strategy, garnering plenty of Millennial fans in the process.
This doesn't mean that advertising is disappearing. Ads are as ubiquitous as ever, and most consumers in the Western world are barraged with marketing messages from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep (or even after, depending on their choice of sleep app). The vast majority of these commercials are simply ignored, and yours will be, too, unless you open your eyes to what your customers really want.
Finding the ad-vantage point
Marketing professor and consultant Mark Ritson argues that when brands acknowledge the truth about advertising, they'll ultimately have an easier time reaching customers. "Accepting that people dislike advertising is not a negative thought. It's a realistic one," he says. "Once you embrace realism -- like any aspect of actual market orientation -- your advertising improves." According to Ritson, if you know that your ads are likely to be ignored (or worse, despised), you can use that understanding to your advantage.
Effective marketing is about creating a feeling of trust. According to a June 2019 report from Edelman, today's most trusted brands also generate the most customer loyalty. Consumers are likely to base purchases on their feelings about a company. When brands attempt to entertain and inspire with their marketing rather than going for the hard sell, the feelings they evoke are more likely to be positive. With that in mind, here are three strategies for building trust with your ad-fatigued audience:
1. Target your audience members' emotions.
There's no quicker way to lose customers than by failing to deliver on your promises. If consumers don't feel that your marketing message aligns with reality, they'll think you're being deceptive. Rather than making and breaking promises about your products or services, think about the emotions you want to evoke in your audience. Better yet, think about how to associate your brand with emotions your audience members are already feeling.
Last year, The New York Times introduced its "Project Feels" ad targeting model. The publisher places ads alongside articles based on the feelings those articles are likely to evoke in readers. Other outlets like USA Today have used similar tactics. For consumers, knowing that brands target their emotions may feel weird, but the results suggest that the approach works: The average click-through rate is 40% higher for Project Feels ads.
2. Endear yourself to customers through a third party.
The rise of influencer marketing and the proliferation of third-party review sites evidence a consumer desire for affirmation of their shopping decisions. Maybe your customers aren't following many influencers on Instagram, but you can still use host-endorsed content on other channels to get their attention and build trust.
Today, there's a radio show or podcast that aligns with nearly every interest imaginable. If you know what your customers are tuning in to, you can win them over with host-read ads. Whether it's from Anna Faris, Tim Ferriss, or Snoop Dogg, a shoutout from a beloved personality can be a game-changer for your brand. "By the end of the dialogue, the audience deeply understands the relationship and engagement between the host and brand," explains Buck Robinson, partner, and chief radio strategist at direct response agency The Media Manager. "Not only does this transference of legitimacy build trust between the host and listeners, but also between the listeners and the advertiser."
3. Build confidence, not creepiness, with ad targeting.
Just like 80% of Signs.com's survey respondents, you probably get a little creeped out when you see an ad online for something you were just talking about with a friend. Most consumers know that ads are targeting them, but too much personalization is off-putting and even raises ethical questions. Consumers are generally willing to accept that brands will use their data for advertising purposes, as long as those brands are transparent about it.
Help your customers understand exactly how you use their data and how it benefits them -- abuse their trust, and you'll quickly lose their loyalty. Signs.com found that the most acceptable targeted ads, deemed appropriate by 67.9% of surveyed consumers, were product recommendations based on previous purchases. Keep in mind that transparency should continue throughout the customer lifecycle, as more data will improve engagement. For instance, Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service, has an FAQ page explaining how customer recommendations depend on the information provided in the customer's Style Profile. Without a little transparency, shoppers might not be as willing to provide their weight, pants size, or clothing budget.
The key to any ad campaign is to build a bridge of trust between you and your audience. When crafting your message, put yourself in your customer's shoes and think about whether you would mind seeing it in the wild -- unless, of course, you're the kind of person who likes advertising.