Alok Lall – The End of Advertising, As We Know It

Alok Lall, Executive Director, McCann Worldgroup

THE CONSUMER is tuning out

“In 1965, 80% of 18-49 year olds in the US could be reached by three 60 second spots. In 2002, it needed 117 commercials to do the same” – Jim Stengel, P&G

Consumers today are overwhelmed with the clutter that advertising has come to be. This is so on every medium available: the television, Internet, radio, print and now, even the mobile phone.

Big six study suggests that people with personal video recorders like Tivo and Sky+ watch 12% more television, with 90% of them skipping advertisements.

The advertising turn-off is a factor that crosses geographical boundaries. In China, 85% stop watching TV during commercials. Half do housework, eat, chat or use the bathroom (McKinsey & Co.)

According to the Marketing Science Institute, word of mouth is 7x more effective than newspaper ads, 5x stronger than a personal sales pitch and 2x as effective as radio advertising.

Pricing power à la THE CONSUMER

In today’s digital world, it is clear, now more than ever before, that pricing power is rapidly shifting to the consumer.

The digital medium has brought transparency to prices, making it easy for anyone with a computer or a mobile device to quickly find the lowest price of any product.

The typical online purchase now involves the use of either a price comparison engine, a search for online discounts, a free shipping offer or some other incentive that reduces the price paid.

But this is no longer relegated only to online commerce. Consumers have also become accustomed to using the Internet to root out the best price for any product before they buy it in a retail store.

The rapid emergence of Smartphones – which are now being activated at the rate of nearly 1 million per week – has made these pricing tools mobile, giving consumers the ability to use them in brick-and-mortar locations, in addition to online.

Retailers are now starting to feel that they have to compete with sites online.

“I never thought I’d be competing with Amazon in my own stores!” – A store manager proclaimed

With consumers today having enough power to find, choose and purchase the products of their choice via the Internet, conventional advertising might finally be reaching its much-predicted end.


73% of CEOs think Marketers lack business credibility and are not the business growth generators they should be.

“They are still too far from being able to demonstrate how the cross-channel marketing strategies and campaigns they deploy grow their organizations’ top line in terms of more customer demand, more sales, more prospects, more conversions or more market share.” (Source: 2011 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program, which interviewed more than 600 Large corporation and SMB CEOs and decision-makers in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.)


Print – Not dead yet, but for how much longer?

Taking its place, of course, is the Internet, which is about to pass newspapers as a source of political news for readers.

For young people and for the most, people who are politically engaged, it has already done so.

As early as May 2004, newspapers had become the least preferred source for news among younger people.

According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, 39% of respondents under the age of 35 told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just 8% said that they would rely on a newspaper.

Local Radio – Inability to reach the TG

The vast majority of people under 25 don’t listen to the radio on a regular basis. When they do, it’s in their car. That too, now with the multiple radio channels available, switching channels on interruption by advertisements is common.

Also, the under 25 demographic is getting their music through iTunes and other online services (such as Pandora). The bond between the listener and the radio station (that was common up to the 90’s) no longer exists.

However, radio advertising is still very expensive. And radio, like most advertising, works by repetition. So one needs a lot of spots to enter the top of mind awareness of the listener.

But even if one were to run a campaign to rise above the clutter, they would, in most likelihood, miss their target audience.

Re-inventing Advertising

Real-time need based

Reaching the Audience: No longer a concern

Earlier brands were faced with the concern of reaching a large audience. This over time changed to engaging with this large audience. However in the future, a brands’ main role will be that of LIVING WITH THE AUDIENCE.

Making the Brand Active

The trend of advertising is turning more and more interactive, be it digitally or otherwise.

Keeping with the interests of the consumer, advertisers have successfully helped sustain a brand in the mind of the consumer.

However, now the time has come to focus, not just in bringing about a change in the medium that we’re looking at, but also in making a brand more relevant and personalized for its users.


Omnipresent dormant existence:


Today, Google has become a platform that has the answer to almost everything; Facebook has become a place where one can live out their alter ego. So in order to develop a future for advertising brands, there could come into existence: a NEED BAR.

The Need Bar would be personalized for every consumer, so as to give him the ability to look for anything he needs at anytime.

This would result in a brand not only being present in the life of a consumer, but also cater to every need of his, from any brand.

Say, Sanjay, sitting in his office, wants to eat a meal from a restaurant close-by in a limited budget, all he’d have to do is enter this appeal in his Need Bar, and he will be provided with all the possibilities available.

Hyper-personalization of advertising will indeed further empower the consumer but it may also save advertising from its predicted doom.


  • The Fournaise Marketing Group, 2011 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program
  • FutureLab
  • Inbound Internet Marketing