Viewers turned off by TV ads

Most consumers find television advertising a turn-off, a new survey has revealed, with only 16 per cent of people in Britain admitting that they pay attention during commercial breaks.

Twice as many say they treat the commercial break as an opportunity to nip out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, 25 per cent change channels to see if there’s anything more interesting on the other side and 17 per cent talk to other people in the room.

The survey, conducted by RSGB on behalf of integrated marketing consultancy Mercier Gray, also found that well over half of the respondents – 65 per cent – no longer trust TV ads, while 84 per cent said they were not looking forward to more advertising on TV as a result of the launch of digital television.

Most British consumers are happy with advertising in general, but one in three says that all advertising “annoys or irritates me”. More significantly, four in ten Britons agree with the statement, “the people who are responsible for marketing a company’s product or service are out of touch with consumers”. Women, those aged over 45, those in the C2DE socio-economic groupings, and people living in the North of England and Scotland form an above-average proportion of those who hold this view.

But if TV advertising came out of the research poorly, direct mail fared almost as badly. Only 16 per cent of the survey’s respondents say that the direct mail they receive is “well targeted for me”, with another eight per cent admitting it is well targeted for someone else in the household. Nearly seven out of 10 consumers – 69 per cent – say the direct mail they receive is “not at all well targeted”.

Just under a third of respondents (29 per cent) said they had bought an item because of a TV ad, while slightly fewer (26 per cent) said they had done so because they were sent a sample of the product and only 13 per cent admitted to having been influenced to buy by a direct mail shot. By comparison, 60 per cent admitted they had bought something because a friend had recommended it.

More than half the sample – 59 per cent – admitted having bought something because it was part of a special offer or promotion, such as a two-for-one or a competition.

Consumers were also asked specifically about the latest Levi’s TV advertising by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Only four per cent said that the new ad campaign would persuade them to buy a pair of jeans, while 45 per cent said they would be persuaded by the offer of 5 off the price of a pair of Levi’s and the chance to win a holiday in America. However, more than half of those questioned said neither would get them to buy a pair of jeans.

Rob Gray, managing director of Mercier Gray, says: “This research reveals some sad facts about the way brands market their products and services. Obviously there are some big brands out there – some with quite severe market challenges – that could be wasting a lot of their marketing budgets.” He adds that Levi- Strauss, despite being one of the biggest names in the jeans market, has no direct marketing or sales promotion activity to support its brand in the UK.

Gray adds: “Many big brands have advertised for so long that, despite changing public attitudes, they still throw huge budgets at on-screen advertising which might not be working.” He hopes that the results of the survey will shock marketers either into making their advertising more relevant to consumers or into finding “more inventive and highly targeted approaches”.

Marketers are also going to have to build up their relationships with consumers. Less than one in four of the survey’s respondents felt that they were “important” to the brands that they buy, while 69 per cent agreed with the statement “as a consumer, I am just seen as someone with money to spend”.

Gray says: “The fact that many consumers feel they are just seen as ‘punters’ with money to spend depresses me. The way forward for all brands has to be to build a stronger and more relevant relationship with the consumer.”


RSGB asked a weighted sample of 1,000 adults across the UK whether they agreed with a range of statements about advertising. Respondents were interviewed at home, and the fieldwork was conducted between January 13 and January 17 1999.

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