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Advertising Clutter Is Ubiquitous In Our Lives Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5456 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Today, how do one measure the effectiveness of advertising when there is an overloading presence of product choices, features, media channels and messages? Advertising clutter is ubiquitous in our lives, where we are exposed to more than five thousand commercial message daily ranging from commercial to logos on retail chains, yet, only less than one-tenth of one percent are able to recall a particular brand or product when being asked (Vitberg, 1996). It has always been knotty to get the message through the clutter and consumer has deemed them to be annoying and poses a threat in the effectiveness of advertising communication. Even with the most outrageous advertising tactics, consumers have become desensitised to it (Kimmel, 2010). Hence, the design issue for this study was: On the average, everyone is exposed to 3000 advertisements in a day (Twitchell, 1996). As such, ad clutter has resulted in advertising designers attempting to create rather complex visual metaphorical expression in advertisements in their bid to be more creative to stand out from the clutter. However, the fact is that the increased use of such approach has hindered the consumer’s interpretation of the advertisement and the intended advertising meaning. Since there still remains an uncertainty in the effectiveness of complex visual metaphors which may have the tendency of consumers not being able to interpret the intended meaning of the advertising message. Thus, this has led to the research design hypothesis which was: In the quest to tackle the rising issue of ad clutter, the use of appropriate visual metaphors in advertisements is pertinent to enable consumers to interpret and comprehend the intended advertising meaning in the advertisement effectively, whilst not diminishing the level of creativity.

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So, in order to support the research, the three top key research questions are as followed: what impact does advertising clutter has on advertising culture today; what is the effect of complex visual metaphors in global advertising; and what are the factors that influence consumer behaviour patterns. They would be answered through the study of the three key issues, covering the area of The Rise of Advertising Clutter In Today’s Advertising Context, An Analysis Of Indirect Advertising Claims As An Effective Communication and Understanding The New Connected Generation Today. The chosen primary research methods will consist of questionnaires and focus groups with the consumer age twenty-one and above. They would be used to gain valuable insight of how well they understand on the indirect claims approach of an advertisement and the consumers’ behaviour respectively.

The overall intention of this research is to examine how the rise of advertising clutter has led to the questioning of the credibility of advertising. Hence, in order to rectify the existing issue, the use of appropriate metaphorical expression can be adopted. The findings from this research would benefit the advertising and student designers of the present advertisement clutter issue, giving them a better understanding on what is the denotation of appropriate visual metaphor, which can be a solution to break through from the clutter line.


Research Problem

The evolution of advertising has changed over time. Advertising has become such a vital role in our lives that in fact, we probably do not realise how much it influences our lives and behaviour. Compared to the past decades, it is not surprising to see a signifciant jump of how much one can get exposed to advertisment today, with the presence of global access to internet, high-speed conncections, text messaging which contributed much to the advertising clutter. (Weyland, 2008). Advertisers are constantly trying to reach out to the consumer while they race to cover every available space that has the potential to launch a successful campagin, be it if it is an illegal placement of advertisement. Hence, such harsh reality causes a strong presense of intense competion among one another in the industry which resulted in advertising clutter, and lost of credibility of advertising.

With the rise of advertising clutter, consumers are engulfed by such a large exposure of advertising available that give them ample reasons to be skeptical or distrustful of advertising. This will undeniably produced a negative impact on the advertising industry.

Since the presence of advertising clutter has questioned on the credibility of today’s advertising. The identified Design Issue for this research was: On the average, everyone is exposed to 3000 advertisements in a day (Twitchell, 1996). As such, ad clutter has resulted in advertising designers attempting to create rather complex visual metaphorical expression in advertisements in their bid to be more creative to stand out from the clutter. However, the fact is that the increased use of such approach has hindered the consumer’s interpretation of the advertisement and the intended advertising meaning.

Design Hypothesis

In order to address the identified Design issue, the Design Hypothesis of this research is: In the quest to tackle the rising issue of ad clutter, the use of appropriate visual metaphors in advertisements is pertinent to enable consumers to interpret and comprehend the intended advertising meaning in the advertisement effectively, whilst not diminishing the level of creativity.

Toncar and Munch (2001) have proposed that, if consumers are able to process and digest the metaphorical expression of an advertisement, the chances of persuading and impressing the consumer is undeniably higher. However, McQuarrie and Mick (1996) have deduced that such intricate advertisement expression could pose a restrain for the consumer to get the intended meaning of the advertisement.

Hence, this could deduce that Visual Metaphor is a visionary strategy for consumers to apprehend advertisement and further proceed into engaging their thought process within, to envisage it. In fact, many advertisers are still adopting such approach due to its effectiveness, a divergent interpretation from the straight forward literal ad we normally pick out. However, with this unique approach in advertising, there are times where consumers could not perceive in the understanding and interpretation of an advertisement through visual metaphor, thus the whole objective has come to naught. With appropriate use of metaphorical expression, the approach could lead to effective communication in advertising.

Aims Of The Research

The consumers’ rate of exposure to advertisement has been incredibly overwhelming which led to the questioning of effective communication in advertising. Hence, the main aim of this research was to address the rise of advertising clutter and the consequences of it.

A more specific aim of the research was to investigate the denotation of appropriate visual metaphor and how it can be adopted to break through from the clutter line without hindered the consumer’s interpretation of the advertisement and the intended meaning.

Research Questions

The following three top key research questions, forming the pillars of the research paper have been identified in order to meet the aims of this research. The three research questions were:

1. What impact does advertising clutter has on advertising culture today? The objective of the first research questions was to obtain a valuable understanding of what causes the rise of advertising clutter and how it led to the decreases of advertising effectiveness, which could further address and substantiate the design issue with supported analysis.

2. What is the effect of complex visual metaphors in global advertising?

The objective of the second research question was to gain insights into how complex metaphorical expression has hindered the intended advertising meaning. Valuable knowledge will be gain from the research on the appropriate solution to it.

3. What are the factors that influence consumer behaviour patterns?

The objective of the third research question was to find out the various factors influencing the behaviour of a consumer when making a purchase. To have a better understanding on why consumers make the purchases that they make.

Significance of the Study (Need to introduce the target audience here – state also why have they been chosen and provide the relevance to the research topic. Also, elaborate on the impact this research paper would create – on who and what. Is it the advertising industry and/or the society at large? Give an overview of the kind of insights this research paper would be able to offer – to who would the insights benefit. Is it advertising designer, both students and professionals. Remember to show the link between the research topic and the your specialism)

For this research, the primary and secondary target audience groups identified for this research were advertising professionals and student designers respectively. These two groups were chosen, as they will be the one who will direct the next advertising revolution and produce potential advertisement that are able to communicate effectively with the consumer. Furthermore, the overall research topic would be relevant to the advertising specialism where there is an in-depth study of decoding visual metaphors in advertising.

This research would impact and create awareness to the advertising industry where it is very important that designers need to know the usage of complex metaphorical expression could possibly hindered the consumer’s interpretation of the intended advertising meaning. Hence, this would further outline to the advertising industry of the denotation of appropriate visual metaphor in advertisements for effective communication, where such use would communicate and convey the appropriate message to the consumer receiving it.

The findings gathered from this research would offer an insight of the present advertisement clutter issue, who will then benefit both the advertising professionals and student designers of having the need to exercise caution on the usage of metaphorical expression that will lead to effective advertising communication.

Research Methods (Follow the structure as shown in the example given)

The following research methods will give an overview of what each method plans to do and find out.

Primary research

Focus group would be conducted, to gain insight of how consumers interpret an advertisement through having a dialogue that relates to advertising and visual metaphorical expression. This would give a specific direction on what type of visual metaphor is appropriate for their understanding.

Questionnaires would also be conducted, to collect information and analyse how advertising today could influence the consumer’s buying behaviour. This would have a better insight of how to more effectively reach out to the consumer.

Secondary research

It involves an in-depth understanding of the issues surrounding my topic through literature review. The key areas will be focusing on consumer behaviour, visual metaphor in advertising and the rise of advertisement clutter. The research will be looking into successful case studies to support my hypothesis statement as well.

Structure of the essay

Chapter 1, Introduction, would give a very clear outline of the identified Design Issue with supported background, followed by the introduction of the Design Hypothesis with a very clear proposed solution on how the identified problem would be addressed. The Aims of the essay, Research Questions, Significance of the study, Research Methods would also be elaborated in this chapter to provide the reader with a clear understanding and the intention of this research paper.

Chapter 2, Literature review, would investigate three identified key issues through readings gathered from credible resources. They were: The Rise of Advertising Clutter In Today’s Advertising Context, An Analysis Of Indirect Advertising Claims As An Effective Communication and Understanding The New Connected Generation Today. These three key issues would provide a better understanding of the Design Issue, whilst supporting the Design Hypothesis statement through answering to the three overarching key issues and research questions.

Chapter 3, Research process, would outline an in-depth of the research process, with a detailed analysis of the results that has been gathered from the focus group interview and questionnaires. This would aid in getting valuable information that would not have been able to done in literature review.

Chapter 4, Research findings, would gathered all the findings analysis from Literature Review, Focus Group Interview and Questionnaires to substantiate the answers to the top key research questions, which would bring this research closer to its upcoming conclusion.

Chapter 5, Conclusion, would state the challenges and difficulties encountered during the process of this research in an equitable way. Furthermore, it would provide a conclusion statement for this research topic and suggest with recommendations for possible future research.

Chapter 6 and 7, References and Appendices, would give credit to what research sources were used to ensure credibility of the research essay.



The literature review would be structured into three sections, consist of three main topics for the research. The three key issues were namely, “The Rise of Advertising Clutter In Today’s Advertising Context”, “An Analysis Of Indirect Advertising Claims As An Effective Communication” and “Understanding The New Connected Generation Today”. There will be findings entailing on the rise of advertising clutter that has led to a decrease in effectiveness of advertising, and how metaphorical expression can be an approach to break through the clutter.

The first section, “The Rise of Advertising Clutter In Today’s Advertising Context” would address the increase of advertisement clutter and how the presence of it would decrease the effectiveness of advertising. It would cover with findings of how to break through the clutter line.

The second section, “An Analysis of Indirect Advertising Claims As An Effective Communication” would discuss about how complex visual metaphorical could hindered the consumer’s interpretation of the advertisement but with the use of metaphorical expression that is deemed appropriate with supported theories, it could lead to an effective communication in advertising.

The third section, “Understanding The New Connected Generation Today” would be to understand the new consumer generation today where there is always a change in the consumption pattern and behaviour.

The last section would be the Gaps In Literature, it would identified the gaps that is unobtainable in the literature review. Hence, the gaps would need to be identified where the findings could then be obtained using primary research methods, namely Focus Groups and Questionnaires.

The Rise of Advertising Clutter In Today’s Advertising Context

Today’s advertising is truly surrounded with high level of advertisement clutter. Batra, Muers & Aaker (2009) explain by taking the high profile magazines for example, they have almost one-half of their section contained with advertisements while the other half was then carried with genuine editorial contents. Hence, this could lead to the effectiveness of advertisement being greatly reduced.

Competition between advertisers as a factor resulting in the advertising noise

In the advertising industry, with competition among different brands of the same product, where one company offering quality products at reasonable price, other advertisers will follow suit coming out with better advertising schemes which leads to competition among one another (Mukesh & Ranju, 2009). Hence, due to the proximity of competing brands from the same product. It has come to a certainty that advertisers have themselves to blame for the current presence of advertising noise. With regards to this, it firmly substantiate and justify the fact that advertisers are responsible of contributing to advertising noise due to the intense competition between one another and to offer better deals with the usage of advertisement exposure to grab the consumer’s attention.

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Take the newspapers for example; advertiser paying for advertisement space because they believe it is an effective way to reach out to the consumer without considering the possibility of other advertisers having the same thought as well (O’Reilly & Tennant, 2009). This has been further magnified by competitive brands making very similar performance claims. As a result, it turns out to be rivalry, competing for the consumer’s attention.

Such manifestation of advertisement competition between advertisers has contributed to the rise in advertising noise. Thus, the above mentioned is absolutely critical for designers to be aware of such emerging issue of advertisement clutter.

Increasing ad clutter has led to a decrease in effectiveness of advertising.

Thomas O’Guinn, Chris Allen & Richard J. Semenik (2008) mention that everyone abhors ad clutter and the rate it is generating, is getting out of hand. It’s been a deep concern on how the rise of ad clutter actually diminishes the credibility of advertising where consumer is exposed to over thousands of advertisement exposure. Therefore, this could actually agitate the consumer where they can be expected to shut off totally from the advertisement they are exposed to, decreasing the effectiveness of advertising.

The producing of more advertisement is similar to the logic of printing money. The more money you produced out there, the lesser value you are able to benefit (O’Reilly & Tennant, 2009). This could deduce that consumers perceived clutter as one that would deteriorate the advertising effectiveness and has become an annoyance due to the widespread of large media explosion. Today, the advertisers faced tough struggle of reaching out to their intended consumers.

For consumer to simply do away with advertisement clutter, many people seemed to fail to observe an unnoticed feature that has been with us for a long time, the mute button (O’Reilly & Tennant, 2009). This added on to the alarming issue where consumer can now simply do away with clutter and escaping from infuriating commercials through the mute button, which indirectly led to advertisement avoidance and causing the effectiveness of advertising.

Eventually, this resulted to a catastrophe for the advertising industry, where such advertisement avoiding technology feature would most likely decrease the effectiveness of advertisement as they get to tune out any advertisement. As such rate, television commercials may not be an ideal way to reach out to consumer in the future.

Breaking through the competitive ad clutter.

It’s a battle royal to break through and find a place that is free from competitive noise and clutter. It has been asserted that alternative ways have been adopted to break through from such clutter and one of the alternatives is the usage of a good metaphor (Mc Quarries & Barbara, 2008). The study of breaking through the clutter could be applied on the use of metaphorical expression but with supported marketing technique. The strategy is clearly outlined in (Mark Hughes, 2005). There is a need to look into the positioning and repositioning in order to break through from such competitive ad clutter. Clutter-Free is a media that don’t compete with any other advertising. It is all about looking for opportunity to create a new platform for itself just like how billboards used to be a clutter-free medium and that it did not exists until Burma Shave make a break through to it (Mark Hughes, 2005). Hence, this could deduce that the means of exploring new revenue could result in taking total advantage of reaching to the consumer.

Here is another example to further explain with, where familiar product such as Kleenex, Xerox Copiers and Campbell Soup didn’t have to think of alternative to break through clutter because initially, there was none (Larson, 2010). This could substantiate the fact that being the first and exclusive among the alternatives in the similar product stands a higher chance to be recalled by the consumers. For advertising to be effective, it must break through clutter through the use of creative advertisement that could motivate the audience to pay attention and engage them in processing the advertisement (Terence A. Shimp, 2010). Therefore, with the intense advertising clutter, the usage of clutter free media strategy can be a media to explore into, in a bid to capture attention and break though the clutter line.

An analysis of indirect advertising claims as an effective communication

To have an advertisement that works, one good approach is through the use of a strong metaphor (Hewett, 2009). From the previous section above, which mentioned about clutter free as an effective media technique. Having said, it is insufficient to achieve effective advertising with just the media itself. The choice of media used and the advertisement approach is crucial. Thus, this can be supported with the indirect advertising claims approach, playing side by side for effective communication to the consumer. A visual metaphor uses an image of one thing to compare to something that belongs to another category, but hold the similar characteristics. Advertisers have begun to realise that through the use of visual metaphor, it could give consumer a fresh insight on the interpretation of an advertisement.

Understanding the identification of target and source in visual metaphors.

Metaphor involves no more than two domains namely “target” and “source”, where the requirement should be distinctive as in two phenomena in given context belong to different categories but are presented in a way that belongs to “one” thing (McQuarries & Barbara, 2008). Deploying metaphor is an effective way to make positive claim communication to the consumer provided with an understanding on the essence of metaphor, through the identification of target and source.

Smith, et al (2005) explain with an example of an for Canadian Furs that had superimposed the intended meaning of “get wild” over an image, which the metaphor target term will be the female model and the source will be her wearing a fur coat to portray the get wild over her image perception. Metaphors as a persuasive device should allows consumer to draw a conclusion that is well comprehended (Gozzi, 1999). Thus, the identification of target and source should be comprehensible when it comes to visual metaphors advertising.

The understanding of the correct indication on the target and source in visual metaphor could be further elaborated through some of the findings (refer to Appendix). Therefore, with a better knowledge of the identification, advertising professional and student designers are able to produced advertisements that enable consumers to interpret the intended advertising meaning.

The usage of indirect claims increases the persuasiveness of the message.

Metaphorical expression has been an effective approach to make positive claims in the advertising sector. (McQuarries & Barbara, 2008). The characteristic of visual metaphor-based advertisement is to enable consumer to think and imagine further which could simply influence consumer in the comprehending of things, which they have no knowledge of (Malamed, 2009), (Smith, 2005). Hence, visual metaphor could be used on situations that are difficult to convey for example emotions, which would help to make them explicit and tangible.

One of those brands that have achieved iconic status is the Coca-Cola with the good use of visual metaphor where they look into emotional connections to work effectively with the consumer (Morgan & Pritchard, 2003). Such approach can be enriching where it provide a positive connection between the advertisement images with the user, more on the emotional rather than the functional returns of it.

Another brilliant example to support is the Volvo 850 commercial that was launched in the UK. It shows on how such approach can be a device to convey complicated characteristics. The car in the commercial is relate into a galloping horse that best represent the speed and handling, as though it is a living car with the relation of both the horse and rider representing the driving experience. (John Philip, 1999). The studies show that an idea where meanings are embedded could effectively persuade and remain in the consumer’s mind for a very long time. This is because it employed a rich mix of experience by relating the car to a horse that communicate the ideal driving experience.

Complexity of indirect claims can be obstructive and misleading to the consumer.

Indirect claims can be an advantage over direct claims. However, there is a downside of it as well. Tanaka (1994), Philip (1999) state that weak implicatures might resulted consumer jumping into a conclusion based on their individual personal knowledge and unable to interpret the intended meaning of a metaphor. If the metaphorical expression in advertisement cannot convey a strong implicature, then the overall persuasiveness may compromise due to its complexity.

(P. M. Burns and L.Bibbings, 2010) says that if the visual account is not informative, metaphors might not necessary be always successful as consumer can get misinterpreted and misunderstood due to the difficulty of visualising the outcomes. Hence, this could imply the fact that metaphors can only be interpreted successfully with caution use on the choice of visuals that do not require complex processing effort from the consumer reading it.

The above mentioned downside of visual metaphor advertisement could be further supported by one of the advertising flops in the recent years. The Intel Company found itself over a controversy on a print advertisement, showing a white man surrounded by six black sprinters. The intention of the advertising message is to place emphasis on the performance of Intel’s Cor 2 Duo Processors to boost productivity and efficiency by running multiple computing-intensive applications at once through the visual metaphor of sprinters down in set positions ready to take off. However, many viewers got misinterpreted and saw it as a group of dark-skinned men bowing down in subservience to a smug, light-skinned overseer. It created such a controversy that Intel had to pulled this controversial ad and make an apology with ” Unfortunately, our execution did not deliver our intended message and in fact proved to be insensitive and insulting”

This could show the risk of consumers not interpreting a metaphor in the manner that was intended. The processing may be too demanding that it gets misinterpreted and may result in an undesirable message like what has shown above.

Understanding the new connected generation today

How are consumers changing today? The diversity of today’s technology had given consumers an exceptional capability to decide what they want to view and not to view (Jaffe, 2005). This could substantiate how much consumer has been changing for the better and unquestionably a change in the consumer demand due to the technology given today.

Thus, with the ever-growing change, there is a need to understand the mind of the consumer today as it is no longer an advertiser telling consumers what brand they should purchase but more to consumer deciding which brand to choose.

Advancement in digital technology that results in the change in consumption patterns in consumer today

Jones, Higgs, J.Ekerdt (2009) state that the manifestation of new technologies had opened up new windows for the consumption and leisure where it created sweeping changes to the way we communicate, work, travel and our living conditions. It has been evident that our society is undergoing a digital revolution where consumption practices have been continually changing in the consumer markets.

The forms of consumption had changed the focus from purchasing product to buying experiences (Danziger, ). This could alludes to the buying experiences has became important markers in the consumption today. It is no longer a focus on how to get consumer to purchase the product but a shift to the consumer behavior on how to engage them with the overall buying experiences.

The above mentioned could be further supported by the case study of Viking

Range Corporation where it offers commercial ranges in residential home. Due to the rapid change in consumption patterns, it now offers more than the purchasing of product where Viking launched its cooking school and tackle on the direction of consumer’s passion for cooking and their experience with the Viking product. (refer to Appendix ). The marketers must think beyond the point of selling a product, to how the product could provide and lift up the consumer’s experience through other alternatives. (Danziger, )

This is a good study of how advertisers could adapt to the change in consumption patterns. Hence, Advertising Professionals and Designer should think beyond the quality and advantage of the product they are featuring, looking into the aspects of how experience can be integrated into part of the advertisement.

Addressing consumers’ short attention for effective advertising communication

The consumer’s short attention span was something, which the advertising industry has been looking into. The conversation with an advertising executive claimed that in advertising today, it needs to take less than a second to grab the attention of the consumer with an image, compared to the eight seconds they used to have two decades ago (Peterson, 2003). This could indicate getting an image to the consumer’s attention had become shorter than before due to the immense exposure of all the media that had been available in the present day. Hence, it is very important to choose the one thing to be conveyed due to the time limitation.

In particular of the television commercial field, there is no doubt that there was a shift in the commercial trend in order to address the short attention span issue as well. In the early days, all the commercials were 60 seconds long before the 30-second spots were introduced which then brought about the availability of 15-second and 10-second spots as well (White, 2003). Hence, the shrinking attention span of the consumers introduces the shortening of commercial length.

Commercials that are shorter than 30-seconds are embedded with surprise value way before commercial-haters can do something about it, while those that last longer than 30 seconds are more towards story-telling in a bid to appeal to the consumer (Elliott, 2005). For other media, it includes the introducing of sensory advertising such as scent strips, 3-D glasses and fancy pop-up advertisement in magazine which have a higher possibility to get the consumer’s attention with the vary visual aspects (Laplace, 2002). Thus, this could show how the industry tried their means and ways to get the message across to the consumer in order to address short attention span for an effective advertising communication.

Consumers’ response to advertising appeal and tone

What type of advertising appeal work best in getting the attention of the consumer? Engaged in consumer’s emotions is a powerful tool in advertising where it allows no cogent reason for them to purchase product that they do not need. (Danziger ). This could substantiate that emotions play an important role in getting the consumer’s response from buying more things thro


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