Consumers too wily for traditional ads?

WASHINGTON U.-ST. LOUIS (US) — Traditional product advertising—full-page magazine ads and 30-second television commercials—may be going the way of the rotary phone.

A marketing expert predicts that viral marketing and product placement will grow in 2012, as more traditional advertising methods continue to wane.

Emerging concepts such as crowdsourcing, viral Internet campaigns, product placements, and guerilla promotions will dominate the marketing and advertising landscape in 2012 and beyond, says  Seethu Seetharaman, professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Traditional expensive advertising is no longer effective given all the clutter, as well as the emergence of technologies, like digital video recorders, that block the ads from even being viewed, much less absorbed, by consumers,” says Seetharaman.

The success of “ingeniously crafted” inexpensive viral ad campaigns, such as BlendTec’s “Will it Blend?” YouTube campaign for its blenders, indicates that such non-traditional, low-cost/high-impact promotional campaigns will be on the rise moving forward.

Product placements, though they’ve been around a long time, will continue to gain popularity as well, in place of more traditional advertising, he says.

“The movie Transformers 3 created a record, even by Hollywood standards, in terms of the number of brands that were ‘product placed’ within the movie,” Seetharaman says. “This will catch on in the future, although the concept of product placements goes back to the times of the Marx Brothers.”

The reason for its reemergence, he says, is that there are few opportunities these days to get consumers in a “captive” mode of having no choice but to take in the brand being advertised.

“One of those few opportunities is being stuck in a dark auditorium, consuming entertainment, having no choice of whitening out a brand on screen, or using a DVR to fast-forward,” Seetharaman says. “In fact, product placements are also on the rise in sitcoms, video games, and other media for the same reason. Pre-movie advertising interspersed between movie trailers will increase as well.”

Social media will play a critical role in product development, as well as advertising. “I think crowdsourcing is only going to increase,” he continues.

Crowdsourcing refers to the open innovation model, pioneered by sites like, where customers design and vote on new product designs, allowing them to take active charge of the new product development process, rather than reacting to product concepts developed by firms.

“This product development model has already moved to information markets like the Huffington Post, and is now moving to high-ticket products such as furniture and cars, albeit for limited target markets for now,” Seetharaman says.

Given the popularity of campaigns such as the T-Mobile Flash Mob, it’s more likely that  non-traditional “grassroots” campaigns will get more noticed than traditional billboard advertising in city streets.

“With the explosion of smartphones, these grassroots campaigns are swiftly recorded by people and then posted on YouTube in short order, which then makes these guerilla campaigns go viral in a big way,” Seetharaman says.

“This ‘guerrilla promotion’ style of advertising will blossom in 2012 and beyond.”

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