Ad Nauseam: Why TV Ads Are Wasted on Women - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Ad Nauseam: Why TV Ads Are Wasted on Women

Ad Nauseam: Why TV Ads Are Wasted on Women

By Tracy Moran


Because it beats a commercial break.

By Tracy Moran

“I want the dolly that drinks and pees,” my daughter Gabi begged before her last birthday. “A baby doll that drinks and pees? Got it,” I confirmed, only to be corrected. She was only interested in the dolly — the pink-haired one she had seen on television. 

Sadly for her, she didn’t remember the toy’s name, and we didn’t see the advertisement again before the big day. But had the marketing gods intervened, my baby-doll-crazed 7-year-old would’ve happily snapped it up — putting her at stark odds with most girl buyers. 

Only 1.9 percent of female consumers say TV ads compel them to buy stuff.

That figure is based on an online survey of 400 women by consumer research firm Influence Central. And newspapers and magazines as ad venues show similar numbers: Only 2.2 percent of purchasers say they decide to buy based on seeing ads in these types of publications. 

Heather Cosson, a D.C.-area marketing professional, can’t remember the last time she bought anything after seeing an ad on TV. But she did recently fork out for a pair of leggings after seeing them on Facebook and getting a colleague’s recommendation about how good they were. She also bought a nonstick baking mat after watching a video about it on Facebook, but she made sure she read reviews of the product before shelling out. “I tend to be skeptical about buying anything that doesn’t have reviews, and I avoid purchasing things with really negative reviews,” Cosson says.

But don’t hold your breath on ad-free television anytime soon. 

She’s not alone. According to the survey, 81 percent frequently buy items they have seen on social-media networks, a change from the past in the way they gather opinions and product information, as well as how they shop. In fact, “women consumers said that of all the things that they consider in making a purchase, social-media recommendations proved three times more powerful,” says Influence Central’s CEO and founder, Stacy DeBroff. These recommendations stem from product reviews, shared recipes and fashion tips, new usage ideas, tricks for making life easier, pretty pictures and how-to videos.


So if we’re not buying, why the incessant ads? It’s long been a core part of building brand awareness, DeBroff explains, and it can still “build awareness for a product.” Dan Price, president and executive producer of Oink Ink, agrees that TV ads now play a different role than they used to. “It’s becoming more of a single supportive tool in the bigger arsenal of marketing weaponry,” he says.

Before the advent of social media, consumers relied on traditional media for product information. Back in the Dark Ages — or at least the 1950s — you might see an ad on TV and ask your neighbors or people you happened to see regularly about the product, DeBroff says. Or you simply relied on salespeople. Today people are turning to what they see as more credible sources — the key now is “getting the first-person impressions from other people who have firsthand experience,” she says. 

Which means that the traditional vehicles of marketing “are on their way to becoming obsolete,” DeBroff contends. But don’t hold your breath on ad-free television anytime soon. The marketing industry was built around TV ads, and companies struggle to know what’s really working. “Truth is, most brands don’t know which [marketing] pieces are delivering, so they’re very reticent to move large budgets off of something that’s been a stalwart of their industry,” DeBroff says. 

That said, just because brands are slow to change the channel — DeBroff and Price acknowledge that firms have shifted funds toward radio, social and digital brand building — doesn’t mean TV advertising will survive. TV ads are increasingly seen as intrusive and biased, DeBroff says, and they’re simply “not going to be the epicenter of where marketing lies in the future,” DeBroff says.

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