Advertising Clutter

The term advertising clutter refers to a flooding of the market with commercial messages, particularly through television and the World Wide Web. There is a phenomenon by which the consumer learns to ignore advertisements because they become a constant presence. Experts have estimated that a person living in the 21st century may see or hear hundreds or even thousands of commercial advertisements a day through the mediums of billboards, print, broadcast and the Internet.

The term advertising clutter is also used by advertisers to identify the challenges they face in getting consumers to hear or see a new advertising message. In this instance, advertising clutter is a concept that is used as a factor in developing marketing strategies for new services and products. Advertising clutter, in part, has resulted from a market overcrowded with products. As a result, products on the market face significant competition in procuring a customer base.

The cluttering of the consumer market by advertisers has made it difficult to use conventional mass media to generate attention to products. As a result, advertisers are brainstorming alternative methods for promoting products. Such alternative marketing methods may include experiential marketing, viral marketing and guerrilla marketing.

During the golden age of television, successful advertising involved coming up with a catchy slogan or clever jingle and purchasing a 30-second spot to air it. In this manner, certain brand names, for example Kleenex™ and Bandaid™ became part of the lexicon of the American consumer. An advertisement carried by one of the three largest networks had the potential of reaching 70 percent of the viewing audience.

However, the development of products like Tivo changed the face of advertising. Cable digital video recorders allowed television viewers to bypass advertisements; all they had to do was click the forward button on the remote. Madison Avenue advertising executives discovered that they had lost control of an audience that had been captive up until this time. Now the audience had control over what it would and would not see. Advertisers have been scrambling ever since to find ways to regain that once-captive audience.

Part of the solution for advertisers has been found in bringing television to the people in new venues such as grocery stores and shopping malls. New platforms for advertising are born every moment. One popular venue is advertising in digital form via digital games and movies. Advertisers have exploited postage stamps, parking stripes, buses, buildings and floors as spaces to carry advertisements.

However, as advertisers become more creative in finding ways to spread the word about products and services to consumers, a new risk has become apparent: advertisement clutter. Consumers are offended by what they see as an excess of advertising. After all, advertising is meant to persuade consumers to part with their money and acquire new products. Consumers feel hounded. They want to be left in peace to make consumer decisions on their own without so much input. To put this into perspective, it is estimated that during the 1970s, the consumer was exposed to an average of 500 advertisements each day. In the 21st century, that number has risen to 5,000.

Furthermore, the market is so saturated with advertisements that consumers find they now have the ability to "blank out" commercial ads in order to see a movie, a television show or read the information on a website. This ability to ignore advertisements is a learned response to an intrusive commercial bombardment and sensory overload. Thus, the task of the 21st century marketer is to find a way to plug a product without alienating the target audience.

The World Wide Web has become an important venue for advertising. However, statistics show that 30 percent of adults will leave a website right away if they deem the homepage to be cluttered with ads. Of those adults who stay in spite of the ads, 75 percent pay little attention to them. In one effort to discover more about consumer response to ad clutter, 4,000 web surfers were surveyed. Researchers found that cluttered websites annoyed consumers. Worse yet, at least from the perspective of the marketers, ad clutter diminished the effectiveness of individual advertisements.

Those surveyed have come to a place of acceptance in regard to the appropriateness of ads appearing on websites. However, most of the respondents -- 52.6 percent -- said that any more than two ads per page constituted a nuisance. A further 27.3 percent said the same of a single advertisement per web page while 25.3 percent said they would tolerate a maximum of two advertisements per page.

Advertising Clutter: Selected full-text books and articles

Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why By Max Sutherland Allen & Unwin, 2008 (3rd Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Components of Clutter" begins on p. 186
The Media Handbook: A Complete Guide to Advertising Media Selection, Planning, Research, and Buying By Helen Katz Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Cluttering the Airwaves" begins on p. 65
Relevance to the Rescue: Can "Smart Ads" Reduce Negative Response to Online Ad Clutter? By Kim, Nam Young; Sundar, S. Shyam Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 2, Summer 2010
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Measuring Advertising Effectiveness By William D. Wells Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of advertising clutter begins on p. 183
Marketing to the Mind: Right Brain Strategies for Advertising and Marketing By Richard C. Maddock; Richard L. Fulton Quorum Books, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Includes "Cutting through the Visual and Verbal Clutter" begins on p. 73
Research in Media Promotion By Susan Tyler Eastman Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Clutter and Position Effects" begins on p. 90
Understanding Long-Term Effects of Sports Sponsorship: Role of Experience, Involvement, Enthusiasm and Clutter. (Research Paper) By Cornwell, T. Bettina; Relyea, George E.; Irwin, Richard L.; Maignan, Isabelle International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, Vol. 2, No. 2, June-July 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Global Sport Sponsorship By John Amis; T. Bettina Cornwell Berg, 2005
Librarian’s tip: "Sponsorship Clutter" begins on p. 172
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