- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

From cell-phone commercials playing popular songs to “American Idol” being called nothing more than a Ford commercial, companies are trying to find new ways to keep ad-weary consumers’ attention through pop-culture references.

Corporations and marketers are finding new ways to reach out to customers who are bored with traditional advertisements, says author Richard Laermer.

“Big brands are finding out it’s difficult to attract an audience when the audience is bored with them,” says Mr. Laermer, chief executive officer of RLM Public Relations. “Consumers are in control, and marketers who don’t realize that will be trampled.”

With all the new ways for consumers to take in information about a product, including cell phones and blogs, companies are working harder to build brand recognition, he says.

“Building brand recognition in a fragmented media market is impossible,” Mr. Laermer says. “Consumers know everything, so a traditional advertiser has to say, ‘What are you doing to impact my life? Why should I care?’ ”

Consumers have even more control of what they watch with the addition of digital video recorders — nearly half of 18- to 49-year-old viewers with DVRs watch recorded shows instead of lives ones during prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research — which makes it easier to skip ads.

Mr. Laermer says he tells companies to be more creative in their advertising. “If you’re not making consumers think the world of you, then they’re going to think the world of somebody else,” he says.

Mr. Laermer’s new book, “Punk Marketing,” co-authored with Mark Simmons, aims to “show people how they’re being attacked by marketers who are trying to bedazzle you until you buy things from them.”

“Companies give them so many choices, but research shows it actually makes the consumer buy less because they’re overwhelmed,” Mr. Laermer says.

Companies have started encouraging consumers to send them text-messages or log onto their Web sites to win prizes as a way to reach out to more consumers, he says.

“If somebody offers you something free as long as you text or log onto a Web site, that makes the consumer a part of the story, and that’s cool,” Mr. Laermer says.

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