Dec 13 2005

How Much Marketing Is Too Much Marketing?

How Much Marketing Is Too Much Marketing?

It seems like a busy holiday season is already underway for marketers, and hopefully for the economy, shoppers as well.  Just for kicks, I thought I’d take a rough count of how many marketing messages I was exposed to in a given day.  Here’s what the day looked like:

5:30 a.m. – alarm clock goes off with 1010 WINS news radio in the middle of an ad cycle – 2 ads total.  Nice start to the day.

5:45-6:30 – in the gym, watching Today In New York News on NBC for 30 minutes, approximately 6 ad pods, 6 ads per pod – 36 ads total.  So we’re at 38, and it’s still dark out.

7:00 – walk to subway and take train to work, then walk to office from subway.  Probably see 6 outdoor ads of various kinds on either walk, then about 8 more on the subway within clear eyeshot – 20 ads total.

7:30 – quick scan of My Yahoo – 2 ads total.

7:32 – read Wall St. Journal online, 15 page views, 3 ads per page – 45 ads total.

7:40 – Catch up on RSS feeds and blogs, probably about 100 pages total, only 50% have ads – 50 ads total (plus another 25 during the rest of the day).

7:50 – Sift through email – even forgetting the spam and other crap I delete – 10 ads total (plus another 10 during the rest of the day).

8:00-noon – basically an ad free work zone, but some incidental online page views are generated in the course of work – 25 ads total, plus a ton of Google paid search ads along the way.

Noon-1 p.m. – walk out to get lunch and come back to office, so some outdoor ads along the path – 12 ads total.

1-7 p.m. – same work zone as before – 25 ads total, plus lots of Google.

7 p.m. – walk to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks get clobbered by Milwaukee, see lots of outdoor ads along the way – 20 ads total.

7:30-9:30 – at the Garden for the Knicks game, bombarded by ads on the scoreboards, courtside, sponsorship announcements, etc.  Approximately 100 ads total (and that’s probably being exceptionally generous).

9:30 – subway ride and walk home – 14 ads total.

10:00 – blitz through episodes of The Daily Show and West Wing in TiVo.  8 minutes of :30 advertising per half hour, or 48 ads total, fortunately can skip most of them with TiVo.

11:00 – flip through issue of The New Yorker before bed – 50 ads total.

Total: 492 ads.

I’m sure I missed some along the way, and to be fair, I am counting the ads I skipped with TiVo — but hey, I’m also not counting all the ads I saw on Google, so those two should wash each other out.  On the other hand, if I drove to and from work in California, I’d have seen an extra 100 billboards, and if I read the New York Times print edition, I’d have seen an extra 100 print ads.

Approximate cost paid to reach me as a consumer today (assuming an average CPM of $10): just under $5.  Sanity check on that — $5/day*200 million Americans who are “ad seers”*365 days is a $365 billion advertising industry, which is probably in the right ballpark.

What are the two ads I consciously acted on?  An offer from LL Bean through email (I’m on their list) for a new fleece I’ve been meaning to get, and a click on one of the Google paid search results.  No doubt, I subconsciously logged some good feelings or future purchase intentions for any number of the other ads.  Or at least so hope all of the advertisers who tried to reach me.

What’s the message here?  A very Seth Godin-like one.  Nearly all of the marketing thrown at me during the day (Seth would call it interrupt marketing) — on the subway, at the Garden, on the sidebar of web pages — is just noise to me.  The ones I paid attention to were the ones I WANTED to see:  the email newsletter I signed up for from a merchant I know and love; and a relevant ad that came up when I did a search on Google.

Brand advertising certainly has a role in life, but permission and relevance rule the day for marketers.  Always.