Have you noticed how ads are creeping all over the internet? You click on an article and before you are allowed to view it you have to watch a 15 to 30 second commercial. Then the article comes up and, as you are reading, the screen goes dark and bang you are back watching another commercial. Or out of nowhere as you surf the internet, a small screen pops up and tells you that your opinion is valued and would you mind answering a few questions on a survey.
I suspect that with the death of the printed page, the gurus of advertising have started in on things people watch. TV commercials are most annoying. With a break in a television program, every second counts as producers try to jam in up to 5 to 9 commercials during a break. There is hardly a break between commercials. One minute you are being told the value of Restasis for your dry eyes, whether you have them or not, and the next second the grill of a Mitsubishi auto car is flying down the proverbial road with no traffic.
If you use an internet search engine to look for an auto, for example, internet cookies follow your every move. For the next few weeks, every time you log on to the internet, car advertisements representing cars that you had looked at now pop up on a regular basis. Advertising is on the walls of public toilets; it covers the inside walls of all our stadiums as well as our hockey rinks. Today, ads even appear beneath the ice itself! Gasoline stations such as Speedway force you to watch their commercials as you pump your gas. How big a market does advertising represent? In 2010, spending on advertising was estimated at $143 billion dollars in the United States. The average cost of a single 30 second ad during the Super Bowl was $4 million dollars.
The United States Post Office does not refer to what they deliver as “junk mail” but they prefer to use the term “advertising mail.” This so-called advertising mail makes up about 66% of all the mail that the Postal Service delivers in a year. A common practice today is what is called “saturation mailings.” In order to get the lowest bulk mailing rate from the USPS, the bulk mailer has to mail to 100% of the addresses on their list. The typical bulk mailer is stuck. They can’t delete your address from the carrier route because their item count would change and their postal charges would go up. Sadly, we receive roughly 50 pounds of junk mail each year and that does not include the 15 pounds of telephone books deposited on our porches or left at the foot of our mailboxes!
It is the future that bothers me. The advertising dollars spent today are staggering. To name just a few: Walmart comes in at $690 million dollars, Macy’s at $762 million, T Mobile at $773 million, and Ford at $857 million – all annual dollars. Advertisements are starting on cell telephones especially AT&T cell phones and soon on iPads. The biggest problem facing the consumer today is how to have his or her name removed from mailing lists. Many firms outsource their customer mailing data lists and they don’t have a clue where their direct mailing marketing dollars go. I often wonder how much money could be saved if the firms updated their lists periodically. The sale of database lists is a staggering business today. I don’t believe for a minute that my name has not been sold dozens of times. I recently moved and not only did I receive dozens of direct mail solicitations from local merchants that had to get my name from somewhere, but many of the firms that I had done business with in years past in my prior State, suddenly had my new address! Until there is some regulation asking that the direct mailer either get permission to mail his or her catalogues, brochures, letters, etc. or take “opting out” seriously there are not many options for the poor consumer.