I was listening to the coverage this weekend about the signing of the CALM, or Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation. This legislation will require TV stations to reduce the volume on advertisements so that they are more in line with your normal TV programming. Over the last few decades, the decibels have grown and grown, making the distinction between programming and commercials painfully apparent.
This legislation is a good thing, not just for consumers but for advertisers.
Marketers shouldn’t want to continue ratcheting up the noise. I know that historically advertising execs have thought “bigger is better” and that you should “make something that stands out”. But the smart folks I’ve known, and my own experience in the constant test-and-refine trenches of digital marketing, have proved the complete opposite — to be effective, it’s better to blend in, not stand out.
An anecdote. When I was at Quigo, we were in the business of placing contextually targeted text advertisements on online content pages. We were thinking of different approaches to try to improve clicks on our advertisements and someone thought of an idea: why not add movement ot the box? So rather than showing 3 static text links, we would scroll *all* the text advertisements we thought might be interesting to someone on a five second delay– the movement would surely “stand out” more on the page and engage more people. Wrong. We released the feature to much fanfare and within a day it was clear that fewer people clicked a scrolling advertisement than a static one. Over time, we found more and more evidence to corroborate the notion that blending in beats standing out: the more advertisements complemented the page they were on, in terms of tenor, aesthetics, and topic, the more likely they were to attract consumer attention.
So what does this have to do with television? Maybe nothing– to be fair I don’t know a lot about TV advertising, I’ve been a digital guy my whole life. But I can’t help but think that people are people, whether online or on the couch. And if so, the research I’ve always done first hand shows that making your marketing message a continuation of the programming, instead of a contrast to the programming, is the best way to get people’s attention. So maybe lowering the volume will actually keep them listening.