Advertising Fatigue: What It Is and How You Can Beat It

Advertising Fatigue: What It Is and How You Can Beat It

In thinking about marketing today, what works and what doesn’t, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of “advertising fatigue.” It describes the feeling of apathy or distrust that so often arises when we encounter an ad today, in any of its forms. Today, Americans have become so familiar with the language, tropes, and tactics of marketing and advertising that to say an ad’s message frequently goes in one ear and out the other would be a gross understatement.

In fact, I think we’re reaching a point where disingenuous advertising tactics will begin to hurt brands in noticeable ways. If brands do not pay attention to the shifting cultural tides, they may get swallowed up by their savvier, more agile competitors. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the tactics I see that are outdated and disingenuous, and how brands large and small can use simple digital marketing tools to avoid advertising fatigue altogether.

When I googled the phrase “advertising fatigue,” I found out (as is so often the case) that it’s already a thing. But it’s not exactly the thing I am referring to. What most of these articles refer to is how to combat advertising fatigue as it pertains to display and banner ads online. Why isn’t my ad getting clicks anymore? What I want to focus on goes beyond clicks to focus on metrics that are difficult to track but are also the ones that really matter: trust, sales, and loyalty.

What Is Advertising Fatigue?

Advertising fatigue is the feeling one gets when the way a marketing message is delivered gets in the way of its intended message actually getting across. It is often a result of marketers thinking they’re smarter than the people they are trying to sell to, or flat out not caring at all.

Take Chevrolet’s new series of TV ads wherein a group of totally real, definitely not unusually good-looking young actors ooh and ahh, focus group-style over the features of the cars, the awards they’ve won, and the deals they’re offering. Wait, these are actually REAL people? Sign me up! Said no one ever after watching one of these painfully contrived ads.

If you’re a radio listener, there’s probably at least one ad you can recite by heart. It’s not because there are technical difficulties at the station, it’s because some marketing person got lazy. When the exact same ad has been running on the same station for well over a year, it may be detracting from potential business more than it enhances it. When that ad comes on, I hear the first two words and turn the volume all the way down until I know it’s over.

The same is true when it comes to programmatic display or banner ads. Ever visit a website once only to have that company’s banner ads follow you around to virtually every single website you visit thereafter? Me too. It’s frustrating and it shows a lack of respect for my intelligence and my experience. Helpful hint: clearing your cookies will make them leave you alone.

Companies who utilize these tactics are operating under the flawed (and antiquated) logic that the louder you are, the more you’ll get noticed. You might get noticed more, but that definitely doesn’t equate to more sales or brand loyalty. What consumers want is a brand that understands their needs and respects their time and experience.

How Do You Guard Against It?

That understanding and respect begins with a comprehensive understanding of your potential customers and an empathetic view of their experience. To make sure you aren’t simply targeting your message to “anyone who will listen” you need to take time to ask yourself questions and define your ideal customer. I always like to ask clients about their prospective buyers, “what are they having for lunch?” Though of course you are open to all kinds of customers, you should have a clearly defined vision of your “sweet spot” target market.

Once you understand who your market is, you want to look at the tools available to you and determine how you can use them to not only get your message across, but add value to their lives. Let’s think about a hypothetical food brand. As a customer, what adds more value to your life: a TV ad where a couple of beautiful actors eat the food and tell you how good it is or a webpage or social media post featuring a new and interesting recipe?

Your social media channels, website, and both written and video content are the primary tools you can use to add this type of value to your customers’ lives. Regular posting on social media allows you to stay in front of your audience regularly while giving them fresh new content on a daily basis. Your website is like your virtual storefront or waiting room. You want it to be clean and comfortable, and you want it to contain plenty of information that a prospective customer can learn about why they might want to do business with you.

Written and video content are where you can really let your personality shine. Quick one to two minute videos about your products or your team and written blogs about an event you participated in or your view on a current hot topic within your industry are great ways for you to get your message across without bombarding your audience with unnecessary frequency or mind-numbing repetitiveness.

When it comes to marketing your business today, no medium should be considered dead. I firmly believe there is value in spreading your message via radio, TV, print, and online. It’s the way you choose to do it; the balance you choose to strike, that is critical to the way you are perceived. If you’re still trying to be the one yelling loudest, consider the phenomenon of advertising fatigue and instead ask how you can add value to your audience’s lives.

Dylan Thaemert
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