Survey: Consumers Warm to Advertising

Consumers’ tolerance toward advertising is at an all-time high, according to a new survey from RoperASW.

“Companies thinking of chopping their ad budgets may want to think again,” the organization said. “For those companies that can afford it, this could be a good time to be on the air, in print and online.”

The survey concludes that almost one in four Americans, 23 percent, consider most TV commercials useful and informative. That’s up 4 percent since 2000—and a record since the survey began in 1975.

While Americans “are sometimes irritated by advertising,” RoperASW found that the number of consumers who say advertising encourages people to use products they don’t need has dropped.

Roper CEO Ed Keller attributes the decline to Sept. 11 and the economy, which have left consumers less likely to sweat the small stuff and more concerned with values. “Consumers started focusing on what really matters, and the issue of advertising and its annoyance took a back seat,” he said. “They tell us they want ads about closeness, people helping people, and they need to be able to laugh.”

As many as 85 percent of respondents said they prefer ads that are funny; 76 percent said they wanted to see ads that employ traditional themes such as “family closeness.”

Ellen Ratchye-Foster, a trend analyst at Fallon, Minneapolis, said the survey makes clear it is a good time for companies to be visible. She cited a Fallon spot that will break in the next two weeks as an example of work that combines humor and “the comforts of home,” which the survey found viewers are looking for as a “balm in difficult times.”

In “Cinnamon Rolls,” part of a products and services campaign called “Be a Fan” for Holiday Inn Express, a man bringing out the rolls is treated by guests as a sports hero. They cheer and wave their arms as the rolls arrive, filmed in slow motion.

“There are times when advertising functions as a little entertainment or creativity snack,” Ratchye-Foster said.

Keller cited GSD&M’s “Let’s put some lipstick on this pig” spot for Charles Schwab as an example of current work that reflects the survey’s finding about funny ads. The spot uses humor to address consumer trust in financial companies.

John Verret, associate professor of advertising at Boston University and former president of Arnold, said it is not unusual for consumers to be less annoyed by ads when the economy tanks. He attributed the record number of Americans who are more favorable toward ads to the Sept. 11 effect. “If I were in the agency business, I would be advising clients not to take their foot off the pedal,” he said.