The Continuing Power of Mass Advertising

As people increasingly tune out the most common forms of advertising, savvy marketers are turning to four surprisingly affordable strategies.

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It’s getting harder for marketers to reach a broad audience. People are increasingly tired of what they see as an unending stream of advertising that is unconnected to their lives or interests. In one recent survey, for example, two-thirds of the respondents said they felt constantly bombarded by ads, and more than half said the ads they saw had little or no relevance to their lives.1 Fed up with this meaningless glut of messages, consumers are using technology to fight back.

Some television viewers are using digital video recorders and on-demand technologies to fast-forward through advertisements or to skip them altogether. Others are using their personal mobile devices to download commercial-free versions of popular shows. These technological advances are rocking the industry: In a recent survey of the members of the Association of National Advertisers, 70% responded that these advances will ultimately lead to the downfall of 30-second television ads.2 And television is not the only medium affected. Internet users are taking advantage of new software to block spam and pop-up ads. Telemarketers are having a harder time getting through as people use answering machines, caller ID and the “Do Not Call” registry to avoid unsolicited interruptions at home. And consumers are hungry for more: In an Accenture Ltd. survey, more than 60% of respondents said they looked forward to new technologies that would block advertising, while only about 10% were not looking forward to those technologies.3

What’s the solution? For several years, marketers have been urged to embrace one-to-one marketing and to offer micro-segmented consumers customized products and services through targeted outreach. While the “market of one” approach can pay off, it requires a significant upfront investment, including: implementing customer relationship management software applications; filtering, enhancing and cleaning customer data; and personalizing interactions (e-mail, billing, offers and so on). These activities take time and coordination of multiple parts of the organization (marketing, customer service, sales, information technology), which, for companies that are trying to be highly reactive to a changing environment, can be daunting. In addition, those activities have often produced disappointing results because their use was not well integrated with corporate strategy.4

A micro-marketing strategy, on its own, is too narrow.



1. D.H. Freedman, “The Future of Advertising Is Here,” Inc., August 2005, 70–77.

2. D. Lippe, “Next Generation Reinvents the Ad Model,” Advertising Age 76, March 28, 2005, 94.

3. Survey conducted by the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business, 2006.

4. See D.K. Rigby, F.F. Reichheld and P. Schefter, “Avoid the Four Perils of CRM,” Harvard Business Review 80 (February 2002): 101–109; and D.K. Rigby and D. Ledingham, “CRM Done Right,” Harvard Business Review 82 (November 2004): 118–129.

5. E. Papazian, ed., “TV Dimensions,” Media Dynamics Inc., 2003. Cited in S. VanBoskirk with C. Charron, G. Flemming and T. McHarg, “Left Brain Marketing Planning” (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Forrester Research, May 16, 2005).

6. E. Joachimsthaler and D.A. Aaker, “Building Brands Without Mass Media,” Harvard Business Review 75 (January–February 1997): 39–50.

7. Regarding that Golden Age, one writer points out that “in the 1960s an advertiser could reach 80% of U.S. women with a spot aired simultaneously on CBS, NBC and ABC. Today an ad would have to run on 100 TV channels to have a prayer of duplicating this feat.” See A. Bianco, “The Vanishing Mass Market,” BusinessWeek, July 12, 2004, 61–72.

8. Accenture survey, 2006.

9. See The independent research was conducted by The Behavioural Team, a company based in Canada.

10. See Figures are from a 2004 study by Millward Brown, a global market-research company.

11. B. Steinberg and M. Trottman, “Advertisers Find a Captive Audience: Travelers on Planes,” Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2005, sec. B, p. 1.

12. See

13. Freedman, “The Future of Advertising Is Here.”

14. S. Elliott, “P&G Takes a Most Unusual Tack with Its New, In-Your-Face Ads,” New York Times, June 3, 1998, sec. D, p. 6.

15. “Sitting Targets for Vic Region’s Ad Campaign,” Traveltrade, July 28, 2004, 2.

16. Accenture survey, 2006.

17. G. Schiller, “Nielsen Puts Its Views on Cable,” Hollywood Reporter 393, April 11, 2006, 6–7. The article cites Nielsen Media Research’s product-placement tracking service.

18. See

19. See

20. L. Slate, “Box Score,” Emmy Magazine, October 2004,

21. Accenture survey, 2006.

22. See

23. See

24. Accenture survey, 2006.

25. See

26. See

27. J. Bosman, “Marketers Follow the Flock to Spring Break,” New York Times, March 9, 2006, sec. C, p. 4; and L. Petrecca, “Spring-Break Pitches Check Into Hotels,” USA Today, March 19, 2006, sec. C, p. 4.

28. See

29. C. Grimshaw, “Nokia Supports Phone with Interactive Poster,” Marketing, July 24, 2003, 6.

30. S. McClellan, “A New Kind of Ad Game Scores with Consumers,” Adweek, January 16, 2006, 9.

31. Ibid.

32. Bianco, “The Vanishing Mass Market.”

33. C. Vollmer, J. Frelinghuysen and R. Rothenberg, “The Future of Advertising Is Now,” Strategy + Business 43, summer 2006,

34. J.E. Vascellaro, “Web Advertisers Find Offline Ads Can Pay Off Too,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2006, sec. B, p. 1.

35. Bianco, “The Vanishing Mass Market.”


The authors would like to thank David A. Light, Evan Tremblay and Casey Littlefield of the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business for their help in preparing this article.

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