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Advertising: The battle for your attention

Advertising is a field that constantly changes to gain your attention. It has evolved over hundreds of years as approaches change with the times and technology. Getting the attention of target markets, especially younger people, is becoming more and more difficult as we are more and more aware of advertising tactics and marketing plans.

Monocle Magazine with an ad for Blackberry on the left and an article on the right

As awareness of advertising in magazines and on television increases it is becoming much easier for us to skip over advertisements not allowing them to use their power on us. With the invention of Tivo and other DVR devices as well as TV on the internet it is now possible to completely skip all ads on television. I am sure it is not new, but lately I have noticed a trend that combats these issues  that is extremely successful. Why not make the ad blend in? Instead of making it splashy and special on its own to differentiate itself from everything else, make it like the magazine itself or resemble the TV show tricking the viewer into giving their attention because they do not recognize it as an advertisement. I have noticed it in magazines for a while, but I think the british magazine Monocle does it extremely well by having the ads follow the magazines design style as well as including text so that the ad blends in with the magazine resembling the rest of the content. I cannot tell you how many times I have “accidently” read one of the “ads” in their magazine, it really is a fantastic tactic. These ads have so much added value and must involve some coordination between the magazine and the people purchasing the ads.

More interior spreads from Monocle showing ads hidden amongst regular content.

I recently noticed a similar tactic being used on NBC. I rely on my DVR to save me from watching mundane and boring commercials, but during the show Community for the past few weeks they have been showing a commercial for TurboTax that I have seen more than any ad only because they “trick” me into watching it. They use the actors from the show Community and put them in a scenario that relates to the content on the show. It always airs as the first commercial in the break, and the first 3-4 times I would rewind back to watch the commercial thinking I was missing part of the show, a very smart way to combat this new DVR and Tivo age in terms of getting people to watch commercials.

Seems to me that with all the new ways we are able to filter information it might be best for some companies to focus on blending in and speaking to an even more specific target group, like people who watch Community, making sure their message is seen and read rather than trying to stand out and be looked over. Of course there are always exceptions and many ad campaigns are incredibly successful and work well at grabbing attention and standing out, but many of these are large big budget projects. So I guess the next time you are working on television or print advertising ask yourself is it better to stand out or blend in?

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