According to a Gallup poll conducted last year, the Advertising and Public Relations industry ranked #10 as one of the most hated industries in America. 37% of Americans view the profession negatively, which puts it squarely in the camp of "things you're not supposed to talk about in mixed company." Why this vitriol for the sponsors of free television and radio entertainment since the dawn of mass communication? Do people really hate advertising that much?
I don't say this without disappointment. I've long advocated transparency and honesty in all marketing endeavors, and I continue believng that permission-based marketing is still the mold to follow in the 21st century. Advertising should be expected, welcome and invited.
So why the controversy?
When asked, people will say that they hate being marketed to. They're frightened by the spectre of privacy violations, even if it's based on observation of their own behavior. It's hard to blame them. What people do in private and what they think rarely mirrors the persona they wish to convey to the public. The manner in which data is collected and results are fed back to the consumer may matter -- if consumers really understood it. But it's clear that they don't, or that they don't believe it will stay this way forever.
The industry should have a modicum of self-awareness in admitting that the particular methods of interruption-based advertising we've engaged in over the decades have accelerated the rate at which people have learned to ignore and distrust advertising. But dig a little deeper... People hate feeling like they're being manipulated because they feel like they should control their own decisions and destiny.
They just hate admitting that they need a push.
As evidence, we look at JC Penney's "No Sale" bomb, which saw the department store lose $163 million in the first quarter. This is in comparison to a $64 million in earnings the first quarter of 2011. Evidence suggests that people love a sale more than they love transparency, even if the result is the same (or better) for them in the long run.
Apparently their pricing and value was a fair deal before they discontinued their sales and reduced prices across the board. However, as it turns out, something needs to get people through their doors rather than the doors of their competitors.
Sometimes, people need to feel like they're being wooed. What's your take?