Your junk mail filter at work is clogged, a Post-it note with shopping tips awaits you on the door at home, and a text message from a friend – just the thing to save the day! – turns out to be an advertisement as well. According to a study conducted by Posti, the Finnish Postal Service, consumers are content or even glad to watch television commercials or to compare products based on information in newspaper advertisements. They feel pestered, however, when advertisements start to stream in through channels that are thought of as personal.
Advertising has its place, of course, but limitations have been set for it, too. And for good reason, the study shows. Instead of constantly developing new forms of advertisement that intrude on a consumer's personal space, advertisers might do well to concentrate on improving their credibility: only one third of the study respondents believed that information in advertisements is reliable.
According to another study, conducted by the Finnish Advertising Council, consumers have a more positive attitude towards advertising overall than they used to. The most negative responses are to violence, death, or sex in advertising. In all their stale glory, the Hartwall soft drink girls gracing Finnish streets in recent advertisements, and the scantily clad Coca-Cola Zero pole dancers bouncing around on television, do seem like rather antique sales promoters.
While interviewing directors of ad agencies recently, researchers Nando Malmelin and Markku Wilenius of the Finland Futures Research Centre at the Turku School of Economics observed that the advertising field is not participating in discussion in society at large. Discussion within the advertising field, even according to its own experts, tends to be superficial and internally oriented. Opening the doors to the opinions of product end users, or discussion about societal values, could be a welcome breath of fresh air for the field.
Though the advertising field is sure to be self-critical in light of the studies mentioned above, efforts still need to be made at the political level in order to protect consumer rights. During discussions leading up to the new draft program for consumer policy, which has just been released, the importance of interaction between different stakeholders was emphasised. As the policy work continues, we hope that the voices of legislators will be heard along with those of business representatives.
Anja Peltonen Editor-in-Chief, Director
What Advertisers Should Keep in Mind
- Take marketing regulations into account already at the planning stage
- Advertisements are not studied like user manuals – they are glanced at
- The overall impression is what counts, not the small print
- Concentrate on the main point: products that are competing against each other, not bonuses or prize drawings
- Take a consumer's everyday life and limits of expertise into account
- Think about what is essential for the buyer
- Who is selling what, at what price, and what else is important
- Social values don't change on a weekly basis – remember the advertiser's social responsibility
- The target group matters
- Common sense is a useful tool