This summer while guest posting over at Brandflakes for Breakfast we riffed on Robert Sommer’s 1969 theory of personal space. One of his key concepts was humans have three fields for receiving communication – intimate, near your face or ears; personal, about an arm’s length away; and social, inbound from about 10 feet. Now if you think about the communication devices in your life – mobile phones, laptop computers, and big-screen TVs – they fit nicely into each range. People have a need for each level of communication, likely embedded in our genes from ancestors who whispered secrets, talked face to face, or entertained from the campfire.
This is worth noting as some, like Bob Garfield, predict the end of advertising. Computer banner ads may be replacing newsprint in the personal space, but consumers still watch more than 5 hours of live television a day in the social space. Mobile may be ascendant in the intimate space, but the ads there don’t work well due to limited inventory and consumer modality. The Chikita network recently tracked 93 million impressions and found cell phone ads had a click-through rate only half that of the already horrific banner ad CTRs (0.48% vs. 0.83%). The sexy iPhone, with arguably the best screen for mobile web browsing, had the worst CTRs of all — 0.30%. But so what? Advertising never fit well into lovers’ whispering messages, either.
Campfires live on
The point is we all have a need to be passive occasionally, and as we allow cable television to wash over us, there remain plenty of slots for paid advertising. DVRs are nibbling away at this, but beware stats that tell you 1 in 4 homes have them, because they overstate commercial skipping. Nielsen reports consumers only watch DVR-recorded programming, on average, about 15 minutes per day. The total time spent viewing commercials or paid sponsorships from various screens? Sixty-one minutes. And we keep improving the entertainment tools for our social space; next up, 3-D television is coming to a basement near you soon.
Advertising is alive and well, especially in the social space of inbound entertainment. We’ll riff more on this in an upcoming ad column.