In his article celebrating the ability of outdoor advertising to counteract the growth in advertising avoidance (MW March 1), Alan Simmons comments on suggestions that the intrusiveness of many outdoor executions could generate an adverse reaction among consumers. Unfortunately, I do not share his apparent conviction that the outdoor industry will react responsibly in order to minimise this risk.
In its desperation to grab consumers’ attention and “get under their radar” the advertising industry continues to generate ever more inventive media solutions. We put messages into new spaces; we communicate with people when they least expect it; and we call it “ambient” to give it a veneer of respectability. The result is simply more noise, more clutter and even less interested and engaged consumers. They may not be able to physically switch off a poster, but the danger is that consumers will have already mentally “tuned out” by the time they are confronted with a barrage of out-of-home commercial messages.
The outdoor industry has rightly earned a reputation for creativity and innovation during the past few years. However, unless it resists the temptation to commercialise every part of the outdoor environment, and becomes less intrusive and ubiquitous, its effectiveness will diminish. Personally I am not optimistic, but maybe the outdoor industry has more self-restraint than I give it credit for.