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Have you ever heard the old adage, if it was a snake it would’ve bitten you? I’m sure you have. It was a quite popular admonition from my Mom. If you haven’t heard this, it means when you’re looking for something it’s actually hiding in plain sight and you completely missed it. Hence, if you missed the snake sitting in front of you, it would’ve bitten you.

On a recent flight to Atlanta I was trying to sleep but I couldn’t get comfortable. So I whipped out the iPad and started doing a little traversing on the Interwebs, after being cornholed for the $10 bucks to access wi-fi…(Thanks Delta!) and as I got settled I noticed something. There in front of me in the seatback were a few magazines.

These magazines were obviously full of ads. Ads that very few people will ever see. It made me wonder. Who looks at that crap? I want you to challenge yourself the next time you’re on a plane. I want you to look around and try to find someone reading a magazine. You can take it a step further. Take a look around and see if anyone is listening to a radio. The plane I was on had televisions in the headrests in front of the passengers.

I thought we’d have to call a nurse to help people with pain in their fingers. Almost like a choreographed movement in water ballet, EVERY time a commercial came on, everyone changed the channel or took a sip of a drink. I didn’t notice ANYONE watching a commercial.

As for those magazines, they are truly snakes on a plane. They are hidden in plain sight. (no pun intended)

Then it hit me. If nobody is reading these magazines, who are the people cutting the checks for the ads in them? It reminds me of those throw away rags in front of 7-11 stores. Other than the clubbers, who ever cracks open those papers and looks at the ads? Why are intelligent marketing directors paying for these ads that nobody will ever see? How much money is spent on this crap? Are the CMO types buying this crap lazy or stupid? There aren’t many choices in between.

I saw an article written by Eric Petersen on Digital Royalty the other day, which is Amy Jo Martin’s outfit (love her BTW!), and it appears that I’m not alone in observing the snakes on a plane:

…it’s frustrating to hear traditional ad agencies continue to push the importance of radio and print advertising. As I’m writing this on a plane to the east coast, nearly every passenger seated around me is using their laptop, tablet, or mobile device – not one is reading the magazine in the pocket in front of them, yet marketing executives are still approving thousands of dollars for glossy full-page ads that will likely never be seen.

If we all can  clearly see the incredulity of CMOs spending good dollars on this puke fodder, why is it just business as usual? Why do these ads keep getting bought? To ignore the data suggests incompetency and ignorance. A lot of people in traditional advertising made a lot of money over a long period of time pushing THEIR message upon us. But the gig is up. And I think the answer as to why we still see these draconian advertising styles is because those placing them don’t want to change.

At this stage of their career, it’s just not something they want to do. It worked for decades, they made their money, they secured their relationships and it’s become routine. It makes it easy to be complacent when your client has the same mindset.

I loved this graphic that Petersen used in the DR piece. I think it says it all.


Sure, traditional advertising does have value…but you can’t ignore where things are headed. The data is obvious. As Petersen points out regarding Facebook:

* Facebook has 1.3 billion users worldwide with 1 billion of using the service on mobile devices
* 1 of every 6 minutes that Americans spend online is on Facebook
* 1 of 5 minutes Americans spend on their mobile devices is on Facebook
* Moms are the most dedicated users (spending 4X amount of time than the avg. person)
* Facebook’s revenue in Q2 was $2.91 billion, up 61% YOY
* Mobile ads accounted for almost 2/3 of that revenue

The data on Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine, and Instagram is just as compelling. And we can’t forget about the amazing power of video content on YouTube.

So the next time you’re on a plane, look around. Especially if you’re in marketing (psst… we’re all in marketing)…seriously survey your surroundings and take a moment to compile your own data. Look what everyone is doing. You’re probably going to do the same thing everyone else is doing.

You may pull out your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You might watch a movie on the inflight television system. You may even read a book…God forbid! Or you may simply kick back and go to sleep.

But I can guarantee that you won’t be reading the advertising laden magazine in the seat back in front of you. You’ll simply ignore the snakes on the plane.

Just like everyone else is.

Barry Cunningham

Author Barry Cunningham

Barry Cunningham is an antagonist of conventional wisdom. Check out our case studies. They will give you an idea how we help brands & businesses amplify their conversion and lead gen campaigns by deploying digital advertising campaigns at scale. And I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter.

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