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February 9, 2010
And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

Recently, I had the day off of work and decided to spend the bulk of it at a local landmark. Stone Mountain is one of the largest pieces of exposed granite in the world. Fairly well known to Southeastern U.S. residents, it’s one of those places that lends itself well to gorgeous weather. I hadn’t been there in some time, and was looking forward to spending a quiet day walking the grounds and recalling all of the history that’s involved with the park.

I have been going to the park since I was a child, and as I made my way toward a lake that sits at the base of the mountain, I couldn’t help but notice that Stone Mountain had chosen to pipe in music on the main lawn and the adjacent trails. As I tried to enjoy the elements at their finest, I was bombarded with a variety of pop music,. As I stood at the base of the mountain (which also features the world’s largest bas relief), it hit me: In between the Jonas Brothers and Robert Palmer, among beautiful weather and one of the finest examples of Mother Nature and amidst what I had hoped to be a peaceful stroll came the amplified sound of not only today’s finest pop hits, but also advertising.

I stood there in awe – not at the massive 1,636 feet of granite that stood in front of me or the gorgeous spring-like January weather – but amazed that someone, somewhere thought it would be appropriate – or better yet, effective – to send their message in such an invasive manner. I’m not sure I caught the essence of the ad, but it did cause me to think about how immune consumers and marketers have become when it comes to advertising. I can’t help but wonder how many people even heard the ad or responded to it.

Marketers are immune because many of them just can’t quite figure out the difference between appropriate and effective (so many of them wind up sticking advertisements on everything from eggs to motion sickness bags to bathroom stalls to grocery shopping carts); and consumers have become immune because we simply can’t see, hear, or take in all of it all of it anymore. We’ve become so oblivious to the messages, the logos, and the catchy animals and phrases, that we simply adjust our advertising spectacles. We’ve become so bombarded by the “Buy This/Do This” clutter, that the only places we can truly escape it are in our cars or homes.

A perfect example of this is movie theaters. For 20-odd years, I’ve been going to the movies, and I’ve always been perfectly content to arrive a few minutes before the theater gets dark to get settled and have a few laughs with the people I’m there with. Now, it’s hard to do that, because marketers found a sliver of empty “space”/time in which they could insert their message – another opportunity to subtly convince consumers to use their goods or services. And we, as the consumer, have no choice but to adjust ourselves and simply talk above the racket and try to guess whether the movie is really starting or whether it’s a commercial for a well-known soft drink or that silence-your-cell-phone announcement (camouflaged as a movie) sponsored by cell phone service provider of your choice.

Was there a need to fill up that space with advertising?

On one hand, I can certainly feel marketers’ pain as they struggle to get through any of the 600 to 3,000 (depending on who you ask) branding messages consumers are exposed to on a given day, but on the other hand, I have to say to marketers: Please give us a break. Outside of hospitals and places of worship, give the consumer some peace and quiet (which isn’t a bad thing) and allow us a moment to take in everything and process everything we’re exposed to. Give us the time and opportunity to appreciate life around us instead of insisting that every moment of silence or blank piece of real estate be covered with a word from our sponsor.

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Nancy Bistritz is the Director of Marketing/Communications for Montreal-based interactive agency Nurun, She works closely with teams in Nurun’s U.S. offices on public relations outreach, and marketing and business development strategies. She is also an integral part of Nurun’s worldwide communications team.

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