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The Consumer Advertising Backlash

According to Forrester Research, Consumers' trust in traditional forms of advertising is waning. In 2004, less than 50 percent of consumers trusted TV and radio ads, and only slightly more trusted print ads. What's more, consumers increasingly say they're bombarded with too many irrelevant ads. These negative attitudes toward traditional marketing have led consumers to take measures to block direct mailers, telemarketers, and TV advertisers from their homes in an accelerating consumer ad backlash.

Consumers' impatience with ad clutter on their TVs, PCs, telephones, and inboxes accelerated between 2002 and 2004, spurring behaviors that block these annoyances. Women and young adults remain slightly more open to ads, especially entertaining ads or ones for new products. If ad-blocking behaviors slash media companies' ad revenues, will consumers make up the difference out of their own pocket? No. The amount consumers are willing to pay for ad-free TV amounts to only one-tenth of TV ad revenues.

Social or viral marketing -- with its minimal obtrusiveness and trustworthy sources (often other consumers) -- avoids most of the anti-ad reactions that fuel the backlash. By engaging consumers in a dialogue about their products or encouraging consumer-to-consumer dialogue, marketers inevitably lose some control over the message of their campaigns. But what marketers may lose in control, they gain in audience attention, velocity of communication, and much-needed trust from loyal consumers.

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