A New Model for Communication

Studying the Deep Structure of Advertising and News Consumption
A Research Report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners March 2010

The environment for news and advertising is in need of a clean-up. Using the tools of cultural anthropology, The AP and its research partners uncover a new path to audience engagement that taps into the phenomenon of social media and responds to consumers’ desire for more honest and collaborative communication.

Prologue Behavioral Field Study and Findings
Section 1: Overview and Study Objectives Section 2: Ethnography Participants Section 3: Conclusions and Recommendations


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AP’s Engagement Model
A Case Study


A Case Study from Carton Donofrio Partners


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A New Model for Communication

In 2007, The Associated Press began what would become a continuing partnership with Context-Based Research Group of Baltimore. We started off with a simple goal of exploring some real-life examples of changing news consumption among young adults, and three years later, we have made what both organizations feel are some major breakthroughs in understanding how information flows through the digital culture. Our first project resulted in a report entitled A New Model for News, released in 2008 following fieldwork in six cities around the world the previous year. That project led us to the creation of what we call an “atomic” model for news, which visualizes a core issue for news providers, whose content has been fragmented into headlines and snippets by the forces of search, aggregation and sharing on the Internet.

Facts Updates

Back story Future stories/ Spin-offs

Essentially, the model illustrates how the news has been ripped out of the package – people encounter it in TM bits and pieces in scrolling headlines, aggregated search results and shared text messages that wash over them in relentless torrents every day. While the technology of the Internet has given consumers more control over their own consumption, it has provided little guidance for how to put the atomic pieces of the news back together into a coherent report. The research conducted with Context has helped AP get on the road to some real solutions. One of the keys to understanding how to address the situation has been the extraordinary insight enabled by the Context methodology. Context does ethnographic research, meaning it studies small groups of people up close to get at the root of their behavior. That “Deep Structure,” as Context calls it, opens up a view of how companies can respond to cultural changes that aren’t so obvious on the surface.

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A New Model for Communication

For instance, going into our original news study, we assumed that people probably wanted more short blasts of news because that’s what all the Internet tools were built to deliver. But, to the contrary, the study group participants said they were actually fed up with that and wanted more breadth and depth. That was certainly music to the ears of journalists, who felt the days for in-depth reporting were numbered on the Internet. With the success of the news study, we moved on to an even bigger problem, one we had less experience dealing with as a news agency. We wanted to understand whether the same issues were affecting advertising, the lifeblood of the news business. To explore that new territory, we turned again to Context to perform another field study in the summer of 2009. The analysis of that data is the subject of the following report. The story, without giving it all away, is that consumers felt even more besieged by ads than by news. The level of fatigue among consumers was at least as bad as in the news study and, in many cases, had left people downright angry. The “atomic” model applied again. We could see how ads were being delivered and consumed haphazardly in blasts of unwelcome Web pop-ups, plastered subway walls and pre-roll video. But it wasn’t all about the format. The second study led us to a much more interesting place and a much more profound understanding of the problem. It is not just that people feel overloaded. As consumers, they long for a better way to communicate with informa-

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A New Model for Communication

tion providers – news companies and advertisers alike. They want that communication to be two-way, transparent and honest. They seek a new relationship that is built on trust, not simply on the value of the content or advertising itself. Seeing the rise of social networking online during the course of this study, we weren’t surprised that people spoke so openly about their eagerness to share content with their friends or tap into online communities to vet commercial offers. Those comments contrasted sharply with their characterizations of ads as generally annoying and interruptive. It all led us to the conclusion that communication couldn’t improve unless the environment changed first. Context brought an interesting bit of cultural theory called “Communitas” to bear on the findings, which you can read more about in the following pages. With Communitas, there is no such thing as one-way communication. There are only two-way conversations that inspire loyalty and trust, and those are key ingredients with the power to cut through the clutter of the Internet. We hope these findings inspire discussion, debate and a variety of creative responses in both the news and advertising realms. It’s time for both industries to transition from “bombardment” back to “communication.” As you’ll see in this report, a sister advertising company to Context, Baltimore’s Carton Donofrio Partners, has already taken our conclusions to heart and launched its own initiative called, appropriately, “Stop the Adness.” Special thanks to them for the insight they provided to this project and, as always, to our partners in this research, the Context-Based Research Group.
Jim Kennedy Vice President and Director of Strategic Planning The Associated Press March 2010

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

Section 1: Overview and Study Objectives
Getting to the Roots of the News and Advertising ‘Fatigue’ Factor
In 2008, The Associated Press and ContextBased Research Group developed a view of how news consumption was being dramatically altered in the digital age. The news agency and its ethnographic research partner issued a report, entitled A New Model for News (http://www.ap.org/ newmodel.pdf), which detailed the changes in behavior that Context observed from a group of young adults in six cities around the world. That report was distinguished by its anthropological approach to the question. A New Model for News sought to document the impact of the digital shift in news consumption from a behavioral perspective. The study started from the premise that much of the audience had moved online, and it sought to understand what was happening to the news and news consumption as a result. The report was delivered to the World Editors Forum and shared with journalists and media companies worldwide. As a stand-alone study, it served to validate the widely held assumption that the legacy distribution models for news had been rendered almost obsolete by the way news was being delivered and consumed in digital channels. The “packages” that historically defined the news – the front page, the scheduled TV broadcast and even the bookmarked Web site – were giving way to a chaotic torrent of “atomized” snippets and headlines that were designed to take advantage of the 24/7 nature of the digital space, but were having an unintended effect on the audience. The subjects observed in that initial study told Context that they were

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tired of the repetitive onslaught and they were eager to find something more fulfilling. The news they found online was broken up and difficult to reassemble in meaningful and satisfying ways. They said they were getting too many facts and updates and not enough background or future perspective. Though it constituted an indictment of the news delivery schemes widely used around the world, the report delivered a refreshing message to news providers: The audience was hungry for something deeper, wider and better. Those conclusions led to substantial changes in the way The Associated Press approached its own news report, as documented in

the New Model report. In summary, the agency moved to an approach that distinguished headlines, snippets and deeper coverage in a new framework for its journalists called, simply, “1-2-3.” That framework set the stage for AP to deliver the news in a variety of new ways that were better tuned to consumption patterns. Newspaper-length stories that had been repurposed online were replaced by a new digital routine of headline first, followed by present-tense developments, followed when needed by longer treatments. A digital tagging system of metadata also was created to enable the related components of any story to be electronically linked.

As strategies for enriching the news report were being pursued at AP, questions lingered about the business model for supporting digital news delivery. Specifically, since news providers were relying on online and mobile advertising as primary revenue streams, AP wanted to understand whether advertising is subject to the same consumption issues as news.

Core Issue: When Is a Good Time to Talk?
The AP decided to engage Context once again, this time to study advertising consumption patterns. The results of that investigation are the subject of this report. As a first step early in

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2009, Context and AP set out to understand the existing body of knowledge about the effectiveness of digital advertising. Of particular interest was advertising that accompanied news content. That secondary research confirmed the assumption that advertising was indeed suffering from the same audience “fatigue” as news. In fact, the situation, if anything, appeared worse. Reports from a variety of sources generally all agreed that advertising had become more interruptive, and less engaging, in the digital age. But something else was also going on. The digital culture was making a massive turn toward

social networking, and the tremendous growth of that phenomenon was setting the stage for electronic word of mouth and personal relationships to influence the full spectrum of communication, well beyond the informal exchanges of friends and family. The new social mindset taking hold in the culture provided a fresh context for studying the information overload problem. Context theorized that to get the consumer’s attention amid the chaos, information providers and advertisers needed to consider, and perhaps even ask the audience, whether now was a “good time to talk.” Clearing the “time to talk” seemed an integral part of the social net-

work experience, in sharp contrast to the “fatigue” of news and advertising consumption. That clear conflict – between increasingly dissatisfying content consumption and increasingly satisfying social engagement – led AP and Context to suspect that standard forms of delivering news and advertising were out of sync with current cultural expectations. Not only did consumers not want to be interrupted by news and ads; they clearly preferred to engage in a totally different way. That suspicion framed the central question for a second ethnography around advertising consumption: If current practices were working

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against deep engagement, what would it take to change the picture? In an environment dominated by repetitive headlines and interruptive advertising, there is no “good time to talk” with consumers. So what would have to change for information providers and advertisers to strike up a two-way conversation with their audience? To find some answers, AP and Context launched new ethnographic fieldwork to learn more about how people react to advertising and how the interruption of commercial messaging might be transformed into deeper audience engagement.

Why Ethnography: Getting to the Deep Structure
Ethnography was chosen again as the research tool because of its grounding in cultural anthropology. Anthropologists understand that to uncover the deeper structures that guide a culture it is necessary to “live among the natives.” By living among the natives, you come to learn 1) what people do, versus what they say they do, and 2) the why, or underlying motivation, behind people’s actual behavior. Ethnographic fieldwork involves going into people’s natural settings, versus studying people in a controlled environment. The secret to the success of an ethnographic research project lies in

anthropological analysis of the behavior observed. In the AP’s first study, A New Model for News, Context’s anthropologists were able to translate observed behavior into a model for how to improve the structure of the AP news report. The findings from that study (suggesting subjects were being bombarded by repetitive news reports) produced a stunning visual model of news broken down into its component “atoms” of facts, updates, background and future spin-off angles. With that model in clear view, AP made systemwide adjustments in its news production process to target the right format to the right situation. Similarly, the advertising project was aimed at

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getting to the root of the problem, or what Context calls the Deep Structure – the place beneath the surface of easily observed behaviors where cultural values and individual motivations are produced and supported. Uncovering those roots can lead to the development of new solutions that reach people on a truly deeper plane of unmet needs. Material culture in an ethnographic study is the “stuff” people use. In consumer anthropology, most of the stuff equals product and services at people’s disposal. As the anthropologists observe more and more behavior and examples of material culture, patterns begin to emerge. Those

Roots of ethnography
Material Culture

Anthropologists compare people’s behavior to parts of a tree – some are obvious, some are hidden.
What products and services do people use?

Behaviors Deep Structure

What do people do?

Why do people do what they do?

Above the surface, anthropologists observe people’s behavior. Below the surface, insights are drawn on underlying motivations.

patterns are the manifestation of the Deep Structure at the root of the question. The ethnographic approach and anthropological process is deductive and iterative. As the patterns from the ethno-

graphic research start to take shape and suggest a certain structure, social theory then guides the explanatory models.

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To get at the Deep Structure behind advertising attitudes and behaviors, specifically alongside news consumption, this project was designed to explore a diverse group of participants, using a range of methodologies including self-reported real-time behavior, direct observation and, to complete the process, in-depth anthropological analysis.

participant had to have access to the Internet and had to report interacting with advertising and accessing news through both traditional and non-traditional means. In addition, participants had to report checking the news at least once a day. The participants were selected from a mix of urban and suburban neighborhoods in four cities in the United States: Atlanta, Kansas City, New Y ork and San Francisco. The locations were chosen to provide a broad geographical sweep and to capture a full range of traditional and non-traditional advertising and news consumption.

Observation Tools and Techniques
“What is Advertising” Send-Ahead Behavioral Journaling Exercise

Sample and Location
To gather as broad a group of participants as possible, 24 participants were recruited from ages 18 to 55 (with an emphasis on the 18 to 34 age group), representing a mix of ethnicity, gender and household income. Each

To gather a foundation of information about the participants’ lives, particularly their behavior, values, news sources and advertising consumption habits, all the participants in the study received a Send-Ahead Behavioral Journaling Exercise entitled, “What is Advertising?” To complete the journal, participants used their digital cameras and followed a set of instructions for taking pictures of their daily lives over the course of approximately one week. Participants completed the journal by address-

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ing a series of questions in text and visual forms. The journal began by asking them how they would represent themselves and their family, focusing on what was important to them, their likes/dislikes, values and philosophies and favorite things to do. They also were asked about their social networks and what kinds of information and advertising they chose to share or not share with their networks. Moving more directly into the advertising realm, participants were asked to represent what they considered to be advertising, how they defined advertising, when they noticed advertising, including the influence of media platforms, their

preferred situation and means for accessing advertising and what purpose advertising serves for them. As part of the advertising analysis, participants were asked to single out and comment on two pieces of advertising that they experienced during the week, one engaging and one interruptive. Finally, participants were asked to explain how they interpreted the relationship between advertising and news, if they saw a relationship at all. The exercise, which was followed by a home visit from a Context anthropologist, yielded rich data about the participants and the role of advertising in their worlds.

Advertising Consumption Diary

To capture activity both in and out of the home, Context had participants complete an advertising consumption diary. For this structured assignment, participants were asked to capture moments, in real time, when they searched for or consumed advertising over two full days – one weekday and one weekend day, from start to finish. Context anthropologists directed all participants to document at least eight moments of advertising consumption on each day. Participants recorded the what, where and when of each consumption event, along with other details. Participants also were

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asked to answer the question derived from the secondary research: “Is now a good time to talk?” The question was framed as if the advertisement were a person trying to have a conversation with the consumer. Would this be the appropriate time for you to talk? Would you be free and interested in engaging at this moment, or are you already engaged with something else? Participants also elaborated on why it was or was not a good time to talk. The Context anthropologists discussed this exercise with the participants during the in-home, indepth interviews.
Day-in-the-Life Immersion and Observation

Day-in-the-life immer-

sions were conducted to obtain first-hand information about advertising consumption as it actually happened and to put into perspective the information gathered in the participants’ selfreported journals and diaries. In these sessions, anthropologists spent part of a day shadowing and observing participants through their activities. Context anthropologists scheduled the observation periods during times that participants said they viewed advertising most frequently. To gain a deeper understanding of participants’ lives and how they interfaced with advertising and news, the immersion encompassed a broad sampling of daily activities, including work, school, leisure or enter-

tainment activities, interactions with family and/or friends and more. Spending much of a day with the participants meant the anthropologists could obtain very detailed and accurate information, including observable details (how much time was spent on a Web site, what was noticed on the commute to work), as well as hidden details (how interaction with different advertising affected consumption behavior). A major strength of the fullday observations was that researchers uncovered discrepancies between what participants said they do and what they actually did.
In-Home, In-Depth Interview

In addition to the obser-

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vations, the anthropologists conducted in-depth interviews with the participants in their homes. Reviewing the participants’ journals and diaries provided a launching pad for conversational interviews designed to uncover further details. The interviews featured open-ended questions designed to elicit vivid and

self-directed descriptions of life experiences. The interviews also gave the participants a chance to explain in greater depth the behavior observed by the anthropologists during the immersion periods and to discuss the relationship between the participants’ observed

behavior and their journal and diary entries. Brief summaries follow of the information gathered from all participants in the study. The names used are pseudonyms.

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Section 2: Ethnography Participants
Clark is a student of Clark , 21 architecture Architecture at Georgia Student Tech University in Atlanta. During the school year, Clark lives in his fraternity house with 50 of his brothers. During the summer, he lives at home with his parents. Being Christian is an important part of his life.


ones that you remember … I couldn’t remember the ones that I was neutral about but I remembered the ones I really, really hated.” Clark describes effective advertising as “captur[ing] your attention in a positive or negative sense,” and says it “further engages you in a specific product or event.” Advertising succeeds with Clark when it generates excitement about a specific product, even if it isn’t pertinent to him. For example, Clark loved a recent AirTran ad that he described as “hilarious” even though he doesn’t need to buy any plane tickets. Clark most-

ly remembers video ads on TV and graphic-rich popups on Web sites. Clark does not read traditional sources of news but consumes news and information online. He enjoys sharing information with his friends, especially his fraternity brothers. Clark explains, “I like to be the first person to know about stuff so people are surprised … it’s cool to know about news first, breaking news, you know, a high-speed chase or $2 pitchers at La Parilla tonight.” Clark and his friends love the Atlanta institution, Chick-fil-A, for its

Clark believes there are three different categories of advertising: “ads you like that engage you, ads you dislike that still engage you and ads you don’t pay attention to. The first two, the ones that you like and you don’t like, are the

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food as well as the company’s strong Christian values. A few months before the interview, a friend told Clark about a promotion where the first 100 people into the store would win 52 free meals over the course of a year. He and this friend camped outside a Chick-fil-A for more than 50 hours, along with many others. Clark and his friend won the meals. He had a positive experience waiting with people similar to him while enjoying free food and music in the parking lot.

on an acre of land with their prized Pomeranian. Donna studied accounting at Georgia State University and started an air quality business with Steve based out of their attic. In addition to working together, Steve and Donna spend almost all of their free time together, and they frequently socialize with members of Steve’s family. Staying connected to her family, friends and the world around her are important to Donna. As vice president of her company, Donna strives to stay organized and well informed. She structures both her personal and professional advertising consumption around these principles. Donna likes to think that her store of knowledge helps oth-

ers stay connected. Her friends call her “Miss Information.” Because she wants to remain “in the know,” Donna always pays close attention to advertising. She likes to bargain shop and stays up to date on sales or promotional events. She shares this information with those in her social network. Constant communication with her social network helps her feel connected and “fills her up.” On weekends Donna goes through all the print advertising she receives throughout the week and divides it into three piles: To Be Recycled, For Steve, and Dayplanner. All are relevant at a specific time for a specific person. Donna defines advertis-

Donna has been marDonna, 44 ried to Steve Business for 20 years. Owner The couple live in a beautiful home


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ing as the way companies create awareness about particular products, formulate an association with the products, and stimulate people to act by purchasing them. She recognizes positive and negative sides to advertising. On the positive side, advertising allows her to create connections and stay informed, but it can be interruptive (such as spam e-mails or phone solicitations) and dishonest. Donna has developed what she calls the “network of mys,” meaning her favorite places, products and service providers. She refuses to go outside of her “network” unless she receives word-of-mouth recommendations from at least two trusted sources.

Donna receives advertising through multiple entry points and devices. She is attracted mainly to print and direct e-mail advertising. Online, she is rarely tempted to open pop-up ads and ignores most advertising. Donna is compulsive about her consumption of the news. She watches the TV news in the mornings and evenings, listens to talk shows on the radio when in her car, receives The Atlanta Journal-Constitution daily and reads the news online, including entertainment news. Donna does not believe that reading or watching negative news impacts her opinion about the accompanying advertising. She has become “numb to bad news” and considers ad-

vertising an expected and inescapable part of news consumption.

Jane and her husband have Jane, 50 two sons, 6 Substitute and 14. Her Teacher husband sells lighting for commercial buildings and performs in comedy, magic shows and cabaret acts on the side. Jane has never done any work that directly relates to her degree in speech communication, but considers her knowledge “diversified.” She currently works as a substitute teacher, mainly in elementary schools. Family is the most important element in her life. Jane also values honesty and safety.


With the personality of

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a planner, Jane is often responsible for deciding on activities for her family and friends and is always cognizant of advertising. She considers herself to be “in the know” and prides herself on the relevance of her information. Tips Jane exchanges with family, friends and acquaintances may include advertising. Jane describes advertising as a “pitcher throwing information at you, right in your face.” It is a company’s attempt to influence consumers by broadcasting its message. Jane stays attuned to the advertising around her because she is interested in how businesses market themselves to the consumer. She appreciates advertising that provides clear information about

important subjects. She is particularly attuned to advertising that provides information relevant to her community. She prefers advertising that is visually engaging and finds advertising interruptive when it “yells at her” and when it is played at inappropriate times. Jane is surprised at how open advertising has become to “sexual/sensual innuendo” and is often shocked at some of the products being discussed. Jane is most engaged with advertising when she can focus on what she is watching, listening to or reading without interruption. Her level of concentration is related to the presence or absence of her children – she is most

likely to notice advertising when she is alone. Jane uses advertising to stay informed, to make smart purchasing decisions and to sate her curiosity. Jane has definite ideas about which kinds of advertising are appropriate and when, especially with regard to news consumption. She does not approve of the use of humorous advertising in conjunction with serious content. Jane doesn’t consume news at specific times on a regular basis regardless of the format.

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Laura lives with her Laura, 28 husband and Mortgage two daughLoan Processor ters, 6 and 6 months, in a middle-class neighborhood in a southern suburb of Atlanta. She is currently working as a mortgage loan processor, a job that she dislikes. She received a degree as a medical assistant but started working as a receptionist at a mortgage company and moved up to become a loan processor. She hopes to open her own event-planning business some day. Her large, extended family likes to share information and shop with one another.


public aware of different kinds of information. She believes she wouldn’t know “half of what I do” about new products or services without advertising. She generally thinks advertising makes a positive contribution to society, but dislikes aspects, such as the misleading quality of the “fine print.” Laura is engaged by advertising that directly relates to her life, especially sales and promotions. The best time to talk for Laura is when she is relaxed and can focus on the product or service being advertised. She describes interruptive advertising as a “gimmick” or something that is not applicable to everyone. Examples include pop-ups and ads aired at inappro-

priate times on television. Laura looks to advertising for information and entertainment and to satisfy her curiosity. Those needs are fulfilled by advertisements about products and services in which she is interested. Laura may be curious about certain ads that don’t seem relevant to her, but she rarely acts on them. Laura watches the news on TV before leaving for work and before bed and reads the news online. She checks breaking news and traffic stories throughout the day by following the headlines on her home page. Laura ignores most Internet advertising but will click and follow

Advertising for Laura is a way of making the

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advertising links if she is online at home.

Richard is the presiRichard, 29 dent and Company co-founder President and Co-Founder of an entertainment group. His typical work days run late into the evening, making it difficult for him to spend time with his 34-year-old wife and her 14-year-old son. Richard appreciates his job for its opportunities to travel, as well as his relationships with artists, but he is dissatisfied with his work-life balance. Above all, Richard is very proud of his entrepreneurial accomplishments.


work because he is always the first to find and share information. He loves sharing news stories, especially those dealing with the entertainment industry, as well as funny video clips and sales or promotions. He spends much of his time researching and developing business plans for his company. He looks across media for interesting stories and creative ideas. Richard entitled his ethnography journal, “Giving Y ourself a Good Name,” because for him, advertising is brand marketing. It is the way that a company or product makes itself known to the public. Richard believes that to be successful, companies need to advertise using all different types of media

so that the consumer is bombarded by the brand message. Richard likes advertising with humor, advertising that keeps him aware of new products and advertising that he relates to personally. Richard describes engaging advertising as “proactive,” such as a Chick-fil-A billboard on the highway downtown. Engaging advertising offers “calls to action.” He dislikes advertising that is forced upon him, like pop-ups online and free offers with a catch. Interruptive advertising bothers him when he is doing research on the computer or trying to view a particular video clip. Advertising that he finds intentionally interrup-

Richard believes he is a leader in his social net-

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tive makes him less likely to respond. Advertising on the Internet is more interruptive for Richard than on the radio, TV or in print. Richard is more attracted to advertising that relates to his line of work while he is at work. On the weekends, he is more likely to respond to advertising that relates to his family and their needs. The best time to talk for Richard is during his down time; the worst time when he is working. Richard’s career requires him to stay up to date on entertainment industry news. He subscribes to entertainment magazines, uses several devices to be “in the know,” buys the newspaper and

spends a good deal of time checking breaking news headlines. He particularly likes world news, economic updates and local news. Richard follows links to videos when surfing online, especially for news video. However, he doesn’t click on the advertising banners on news sites or follow the sponsored links on Google during searches. Richard believes that the kind of news he reads does impact the types of advertising he notices and that news itself can be interruptive when it creates panic or anxiety.

Eric, a marriage Eric, 28 and family Marriage and counselor, Family Life Counselor helps violent offenders “get back into society.” He is married with three daughters who are 8, 6 and 8 months. Religion is central to his life and he plays an active role in his church.

Kansas City

Eric is exposed to advertising through television, radio and Internet. His engagement with these sources is compartmentalized: He is exposed to Internet advertising at work; he listens to the radio in the car; and he watches television in the evenings at home. Eric is most likely to be drawn into advertisements while watching television but

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otherwise finds ads interruptive. Eric’s news consumption follows a similar pattern. He reads the newspaper online and listens to news updates on the radio. At these times, he is not interested in being exposed to ads. Advertising that comes on while he is watching the televised news in the morning or evenings is somewhat more welcome, but less so than when he is relaxing in front of the television at night. He prefers hearing about “good” news. Eric accepts the need for companies to advertise their products and services. He appreciates advertising that entertains him. He considers television ads to be a part

of the experience of enjoying his favorite shows but finds them interruptive when he views the daily morning news. Eric is most drawn to visual storytelling in advertising, both on television and print. However, he is annoyed by ads that pop up, that are densely packed with information, or that are unrelated to his purchasing needs. He is displeased that these types of ads usually force him to take an action to get rid of them.

and his stepsons, 21 and 23. Sports bring the family together as the kids play, watch events avidly and regularly attend pro sports games. Brent even works the concessions at Royals stadium to get good sight lines to the field. As a barber, Brent is aware that aesthetics can shape a person’s opinions. “I can shape a person’s attitude by changing the way they look.” He sees this shaping ability in advertising: “Advertising shapes the way I consume and how I incorporate products into my life and spending.” The most engaging ads for Brent are humorous and relate to his interests. He finds some ads annoying but he feels he can

Brent is a soft-spoken Brent, 35 barbershop Barbershop owner. He Owner spends much of his free time with his wife, their 14-year-old son,

Kansas City

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ignore them. At work, he tries to minimize potentially offensive advertising by subscribing to satellite television. If Brent were to get all his ads sent to one device, he would choose his television because he expects them to be there. In contrast, he dislikes ads when he surfs the Internet (especially on his smartphone). They interrupt what he is trying to accomplish. Moreover, Brent distrusts advertisements on the Internet because they entice him to make an immediate purchase rather than give him time to think. Brent also questions the veracity of ads online more than on other platforms. Brent’s purchase of his

smartphone was strategic. Because of his job, he has little time to keep up with the news during the day. He relies on his phone to keep him up to date and thus finds advertising on his phone especially interruptive.

Jennifer claims she is not afraid of working hard but also expects to be able to buy the things she is accustomed to having. Jennifer’s active life does not expose her to much advertising. Jennifer is most likely to be open to advertising when she is at home relaxing in front of the television. She listens to the radio to hear her favorite music, preferably uninterrupted, and her behavior on the computer is goal-oriented. She finds billboard advertising to be desperate, like a “cheesy salesman,” and comparatively not effective. Overall, advertising is a convenience for Jennifer. It informs her of new products and often entertains

Jennifer is a marketJennifer, 20 ing and College Student psychology student at Central Missouri State University. In general, Jennifer views advertising in a positive light. “Advertising doesn’t hurt you; it’s there for you to respond to or not.”

Kansas City

Jennifer recently moved back into her mother’s home. Her decision was financially motivated.

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her. Jennifer believes you can turn away from advertising if you don’t want to be interrupted by it. Jennifer believes that she follows the news more than her friends and family do. She watches the local six o’clock news almost daily. She is most concerned about news that affects her directly or is close to her family. Jennifer has become trusting of the stories she hears and usually views the accompanying advertising in a positive light.

and her eldest daughter, who is 25, lives nearby with her fiancé in an apartment owned by Roberta and her husband. Roberta describes her 5,000-square-foot house as a “people-moving house.” It is important to Roberta and her husband that their children and their children’s friends see and use the house as a hub for their various activities and get-togethers. She enjoys entertaining children in their home in part because its alcohol- and drug-free environment is safer for them and reassuring to other parents. The large house supports the love of antiques Roberta shares with her husband. The family also enjoys skiing and owns a

second home in Colorado. Roberta says that her family lives comfortably, but she is quick to stress that they spend within their means. Roberta has a very broad understanding of advertising. As a stand against advertising that she finds morally distasteful, she will not let her son wear t-shirts with certain brand names emblazoned across the front. The most engaging advertising for her innovatively integrates text and graphics, while the least appealing advertising screams “free.” For Roberta, pop-up ads and telemarketing are the most annoying forms of advertising. “It’s not what I paid for, it’s tacky. Don’t leave your advertising

Roberta lives with Roberta, 49 her husSubstitute band and Teacher 17-year-old daughter. Her son, 21, is at college,

Kansas City

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on my stuff. That makes me say I’m not going to purchase your product.” Her most recent experience with pop-up ads was in print. She received her daily Kansas City Star with a sticker ad for a local clothing company obscuring part of the front page. She was furious and felt that her morning ritual of reading the paper, which she had paid for, had been severely interrupted. She vowed to never shop at the store sponsoring the advertising. Roberta doesn’t seek to be entertained by advertisements, but she expects ads to be well designed and attractive to the eye. Her primary access to advertising is through the newspaper, and she uses ads to research products

and services for herself and her family. She is not an avid television watcher, and she uses the computer mainly to check the weather and keep track of her church’s missions overseas. Roberta anticipates that her interaction with advertising will shift further online following her recent purchase of a smartphone.

to comedy clubs. V ama enjoys watching television and has recently started watching her favorite television shows on the Internet. She loves to travel, and usually takes six trips a year. To V ama, advertisements are meant to inform and persuade consumers. She believes ads should match the program that is being shown and feels that advertising is disruptive when “it’s too obvious that they want to encourage you to buy their product.” V ama is most drawn in by ads that entertain her. Television ads in particular appeal to her desire for visually engaging graphics and limited text. On the Internet, she has grown accustomed to the

V ama is a liability claims Vama, 30 adjustor at a Claims motorcycle Adjuster insurance company. She hopes to move up to a management position so that she can retire at age 50.

Kansas City

V ama’s interests include playing video games, listening to music and going

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positioning of ads and as a result doesn’t find them completely disruptive. She has recently been using her Apple iTouch more, which limits the amount of advertising she has to ignore while perusing the Web. Although she really enjoys television, V ama is not hooked on video in all contexts. She particularly dislikes online video ads, which she believes are not worth her time. She does appreciate that watching them is a small compromise in exchange for free online programming. To catch up on news, V ama likes to watch the 10 o’clock televised news because she thinks the reporters have had more time to update and round

out their stories. In this setting, she is clear on the need for news and advertising to complement each other. She also likes to follow the news online and feels that the Internet gives her greater freedom to move within a story and dig for context. She appreciates hyperlinks embedded in news stories that provide more background; “[the hyperlinks] let you go back to the beginning. On the Internet you can archive it like that, whereas with TV, if it’s not current, you’re not going to see it.”

Belinda is a married Belinda, 49 mother of Freelance a 17-yearConsultant old boy and 13-year-old girl. A third teenager, a family friend, lives in Belinda’s home and has become an integral part of the family. Belinda cares about her family and puts her family first. She wants her kids to be honest and respect other people. “I am a person who always tries to do my best. My motto is to have fun and laugh a lot.”

New York City

She and her family rarely watch live TV. Instead, they rent Netflix movies and watch shows saved to a digital video recorder. Belinda has lived in Manhattan for over nine years and loves it. Since she has been in the same neighborhood

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for so long, she has built a large social network of friends, colleagues and fellow parents. Belinda leverages her community to share and receive information, most often about shopping, travel, restaurants or good deals, as well as items of interest, including articles, videos and Web sites. Belinda sees ads all over the place in her life. In her opinion, their purpose is either to alert her to new products or to remind her of existing products. Belinda seems to react negatively to advertising in all contexts. Subway ads and radio ads are slightly less annoying because she is usually a captive audience in these scenarios. However, she strongly feels that there is “too

much” advertising, and spends much of her time trying to ignore it. Belinda categorizes advertising into two straightforward categories: either good or bad. Good advertising is visually appealing and beautiful, not “in my face,” and gives her something in return for her attention. Bad advertising includes pop-up ads on the computer, flyers on the street and boring ads. Belinda doesn’t feel she “needs” advertising. She believes that she gets nothing out of advertising except, occasionally, entertainment. She likes intelligent ads that are not too blatant, and she is also more engaged with ads that change. Banner

advertising isn’t terribly interruptive, but Belinda considers it brainwashing. She hates online ads that pop up or move across the screen, and feels invaded because she has no control over what she sees. She calls it “eye pollution.” Belinda checks the news all throughout the day, in between periods of work. She mostly reads The New York Times online, but also watches the news on CNN and CNBC. She often has one of these networks on during the day in the background while she works from home on the computer. She also has a morning ritual of drinking coffee and watching the Today show with her son. During this time, they might see a commercial on TV and comment on it,

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but typically they are not paying close attention. Online, besides The New York Times, Belinda sometimes clicks on AOL news headlines from her homepage. She also reads articles emailed to her from friends from various newspaper Web sites. Belinda says that ads in the news have “no effect” on her, since she typically doesn’t even notice them.

get a job. Currently, she works in an accounting department of a real estate company, which she finds interesting but not thrilling. Donia cites family and friends as most important in her life. Donia regularly exchanges articles, videos, information and even advertisements with her friends online. She only shares things if they are digital, through her Facebook wall, over Google chat or e-mail. Donia thinks about advertising as the intersection between entertainment for consumers and communication from companies. As such, the only need advertising fills for Donia is entertainment. Clever ads while she’s

walking and/or on public transportation offer her pleasant thoughtful moments, and funny commercials on TV make her laugh. Donia likes clever ads but wants ads to be clear about the products being pitched. She is especially attracted to ads that use the product or brand as the punch line. Online, Donia finds ads too interruptive if they keep her from what she’s trying to get done. She cites pop-ups and video in that regard. She also finds targeted advertising “creepy” and “like Big Brother.” She dislikes when companies try to communicate too much, or overdo product placements. Donia reads newspapers

Donia is a single Donia, 25 woman who Accounting lives with Department Clerk a family friend from Ridgewood, N.J. Donia went to college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., then moved to New Y ork City to be nearer to family and

New York City

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online and rarely in print, except for free papers handed out on the street. Donia reads The New York Times online every day, all the time. She has become used to the format and is easily able to ignore any ads on the page, unless an ad pops up. She does not see a connection between advertising and news. The two remain completely separate in her brain, with ads as something she has had to learn to tolerate in order to get to the news.

city and is a proud member of an exclusive midtown social club. He goes to the club three to four times a week to relax and read newspapers. His social contacts are of utmost importance to him. Ethan welcomes nearly all kinds of advertising and finds it entertaining. The only ads he finds intrusive are the “creepycrawly” moving pop-up ads online, which he tries to close as quickly as possible. His favorite place to look at ads is on the subway and on buses, because they are non-interruptive. He feels similarly about ads on billboards and in newspapers and magazines. Ethan prefers ads to be engaging, simple and beautiful.

Ethan is most likely to engage with ads when he’s not doing anything else or when he has “more time,” such as on weekends. For television shows, Ethan has a DVR and avoids most TV commercials. Ethan enjoys finding out about new products through advertising. He benefits from ads that teach him something, for example, a Smart Balance ad that taught him about a plant-based cholesterol reducer. As a networker, Ethan receives information on products from his friends and others in his social circle. He loves keeping up with the news and calls himself a “voracious consumer of print media.” He prefers to read the news-

Ethan aspires to be Ethan, 37 a wealthy Property and powerManager ful businessman. He lives on the Upper West Side of the

New York City

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paper in print, which he does on the train, subway, at the club and at home on the weekends. While he is at work, however, he reads news mostly on nytimes. com, cnn.com, and newyorkmag.com. He doesn’t watch news on TV because he prefers to choose which stories to consume. One of his favorite things to do is to read the Sunday New York Times at home, and he “can spend hours reading it.” He was bothered by the fact that his two favorite publications, The New York Times and Esquire, have recently featured ads on their front pages. He called it “a sign of the times,” but as a man who honors and respects tradition, he was unhappy with the new development.

Ethan doesn’t often notice ads online while consuming news, but he will notice them in the printed newspaper. Newspaper ads are more engaging to him because he finds them bigger, more artsy, more beautiful and clever.

of friends, he is the “go-to guy” for fixing anything electronic. Overall, Jason takes a pragmatic approach toward advertising. He relies on ads to keep informed about new products and services, and this plays an important role in his life. Jason enjoys television ads most because he likes to see and hear about products. He is not keen on online ads, which are often forced on him when he wants access to content. While he does not go out of his way to share advertising, Jason does share information about special deals he finds on aggregator sites that he visits on a daily basis. Jason is most interested and engaged with ads that

Jason lives in the Jason, 45 suburb of Property Lynbrook, Manager N.Y., about an hour outside of Manhattan, with his wife and two children, ages 13 and 8. The family enjoys sports, taking family trips, going out to the movies and dining out. He is an avid consumer of technology and enjoys working on homeimprovement projects and playing golf. In his family and among his circle

New York City

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relate to his interests. He is also engaged with advertising that communicates some kind of special offer or promotion. He appreciates a well-crafted ad and spoke favorably about ads for the Apple iPhone. For Jason, interruptive ads include those that appear before online videos or ads that seem randomly placed. He acknowledges that online video ads are necessary and sees value in them but has little patience for them nonetheless. Jason’s engagement with advertising varies. When he is busy or rushing, he does not pay attention, but when he is more relaxed (such as when he is home watching television), he is more receptive. On weekends, he looks at

inserts or circulars in the Sunday newspapers as well as TV ads. Jason’s news consumption occurs throughout the day. On the train, he gets news from reading his local newspaper and magazines. Once at work, he has news radio on in the background and will usually check his My Yahoo page at least once to scan headlines from AP and Reuters news feeds. On the days he stays home, he gets news through watching his local news and CNN, in addition to reading the newspaper and checking his My Yahoo page. In the evenings after work, he occasionally watches network news on television. When he is consuming news, Jason feels he has

a moderate level of attentiveness to advertising. Jason is primarily interested in local news, sports news, technology news and financial news, and keeps informed on national and international news stories as well. When he is more relaxed and passively receiving news, he feels he is more receptive and aware of advertising.

Carly works as an office Carly, 28 assistant at Office an indepenAssistant dent record label in Manhattan. Originally from Detroit, she has lived on and off in the New Y ork area over the past four years. She shares a two-bedroom apartment with her cat and a friend in Brooklyn. She enjoys

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her neighborhood, which reminds her of Detroit. Carly describes herself as a sociable person who is very into music and the arts. In her free time, she DJs at local bars and performs in a band. Since music is a big passion in her life, she hopes to get a more substantial job in the music industry in the near future. With a background in photography, Carly is focused on design. She tends to appreciate an ad’s artistic qualities, rather than the specific product or service being advertised. She also appreciates the entertainment value of ads, particularly the use of humor. Carly may comment on ads that she finds entertaining to her friends, but does not go out

of her way to share advertising or Web links. She takes a passive role and relies on others to share links and information with her. Carly is most engaged with print ads and tries to avoid online and television ads. Over the years, one of the significant changes she has noticed with advertising is the increased use of what she calls “absurdism.” She has mixed feelings about this advertising approach and feels it is overused. In the evenings after work or on weekends, Carly is more relaxed, has more free time and is more engaged with advertising. For Carly, advertising fulfills her desires to be

entertained, get information or relieve her boredom. She has a low regard for online advertising, but she concedes that some online advertising can meet her needs. Carly is more receptive to advertising when she is communicating online with friends via e-mail or Facebook. She finds video advertising less engaging compared with print ads, given her interests in design, but recognizes that video does have the power to create an emotional connection to a product or service. Carly’s news consumption occurs primarily online and on television in the evenings and weekends. In the morning, she often scans gothamist.com. On weekends, she usually

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reads The New York Times online, focusing on the arts and book review sections. She does not consider herself a news junkie, but wants to keep informed so that she is “not walking into the world not knowing that something huge happened.” When consuming news online, Carly tends not to notice advertising, because she knows where to expect it in the context of the sites she visits. Similarly, when watching television news, she tends not to focus on the advertising and is generally put off by commercials. Carly gravitates toward entertainment news and local news rather than hard news or world news. For her, news consumption is a solitary pursuit and

not something she discusses with friends. Carly does not actively seek out news stories but rather takes a browse and scan approach.

Leslie is an event manLeslie, 30 ager with a Freelance side job as Event Manager an operations manager for Victoria’s Secret promotions and display. She lives with her partner of nine months and considers her immediate family to be “me, my partner and our three pets.” Leslie’s family means everything to her; most of her extended family is in Hawaii. She calls herself the mediator of the family. Leslie has a large network of friends in California, Hawaii and New Y ork, and loves that her

New York City

friends and her colleagues “are all intertwined.” She keeps up with her network via Facebook, MySpace and Photoblog, and with her inner circle by phone, texting, e-mail and Facebook. Leslie feels that advertising is everywhere. She sees it most of all on the subway and on billboards. But in many cases, Leslie says, “I just don’t notice it.” She blanks out TV commercials. (“It’s just noise.”) Most of the time she watches shows that she and her partner record, so they fast-forward through the commercials. To Leslie, advertising is “always about getting more money.” She feels that advertisements resemble “hands grabbing

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out at you,” trying to pull the consumer in different directions. Getting used to a constant barrage of advertising has pushed Leslie to gauge her wants versus her real needs. Leslie uses friends to help sort her priorities. She regularly shares information about travel, shopping, events, restaurants, jobs and more with her friends and colleagues. She likes products to be vetted by real people before she purchases them and visits yelp.com or other consumer reviews sites. Leslie notices ads most often in the subway and in magazines. Advertising encourages her “to look into that.” She appreciates ads that are clever and to

the point. When ads go further, such as trying to convince her of something, she gets turned off. Leslie hates online advertising and tries to ignore it. She despises ads that move across the page and hates when online ads appear in places they weren’t before. She understands that much of what she does online is free and funded by ads, yet she is irritated by the ads. Leslie is most likely to read the news online on the sites of CNN, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. She occasionally gets a paper version of The New York Times on Sunday to read leisurely. She likes keeping up to date on “what’s happening” around her

and in the world. She is familiar with the formats of the news sites she frequents and avoids the ads.

Sam recently graduSam, 22 ated from Hotel Desk New Y ork Clerk University with a bachelor’s degree in metropolitan studies and urban design. He grew up in a New Jersey suburb about 40 minutes outside of New Y ork City. He describes himself as an analytical, inquisitive and sociable person with a diverse set of interests including music, snowboarding, skateboarding and cycling. For the past year, he has lived at his parents’ home to save money. He recently started working as a front-desk clerk at a

New York City

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hotel close to his home in New Jersey. He sees this job as a stepping-stone to property management, though he would like to continue pursuing his interests in urban design and planning. Sam regards advertising as “everywhere” in his environment. He recognizes the power of advertising to inform and influence people but feels that the constant bombardment of advertising can have negative effects. Sam tends to share information and advertising that he finds entertaining or humorous. Sharing content allows him to feel connected with his network of friends. The types of advertising Sam finds most interesting and engaging are ads

that appeal to his sense of humor, particularly commercials on television. He enjoys creative print ads and online ads that use Flash technology. Sam feels that online ads that require him to interact by clicking are interruptive and annoying, particularly if he is focused on getting to particular content. The time of day impacts Sam’s tolerance for advertising. When he is online and doing a focused activity, being forced to interact with advertising in the form of pop-up ads or “floating ads that require X-ing out of” causes him to become annoyed and frustrated. If he is more casually browsing the Internet or watching television, usually in the evenings or weekends, he tolerates

advertising more. Sam feels that advertising addresses his need to be entertained and informed. The need to be entertained is largely met by ads that Sam views on television. Online advertising does fulfill his need to be informed, but Sam has less patience for the format of online ads, particularly if he is focused on getting to desired content. He also feels that the quality of advertising online is inconsistent and often gimmicky. Sam primarily consumes news online in the evenings. Occasionally, he will watch the evening news on television with his family. On average, he estimates spending between 10 and 30 minutes a

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day looking at news Web sites, such as CNN and MSNBC. When checking these sites, his approach is to quickly scan headlines and then read articles or view video news stories. While he generally ignores advertising on news sites, he understands the necessity of having ads with the news, particularly when watching videos. Sam’s level of engagement with the news impacts the likelihood of his noticing the accompanying advertising. When focused on getting to news content, particularly serious news, he does not want to be distracted by advertising. Generally, since he feels he has limited time, he does not want advertising to impede his access to the news.

Angela works for Angela, 24 a plastic Operating surgeon Room Technician and lives with her boyfriend in San Francisco. She exudes confidence and an enthusiasm for life. She enjoys going to new restaurants and seeing live music. Although Angela dislikes the term “foodie,” she spends a lot of time searching yelp.com and opentable.com and values user reviews for their “unbiased nature,” in contrast to paid reviews or advertisements. Angela feels there is a distinction between “honest” information and “biased” information.

San Francisco

advertising has become overwhelming, creeping into personal lives, but that some forms of advertising can be entertaining and eye-opening to new products or events. Most advertising annoys Angela because it feels invasive and does not seem to serve a purpose beyond “yelling something at me.” She explains, “Sometimes you feel like you’re just being bombarded by things. Other times you think that is really cool, let me check that out. Other times it’s just, get that away from me; I don’t want to see it. I’m going to change the channel; I’m going to turn this off. I’m going to close the Internet browser.” Angela just got a Blackberry that she uses

Angela has a love/hate relationship with advertising. She believes that

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to check her e-mail, read news and perform other online functions. More recently, she has begun receiving text messages that are advertisements for things like ringtones and wallpaper, which she feels are “completely useless.” Angela expects to see advertisements while watching TV or spending time online and has come to accept those experiences. However, she is disturbed by the text ads on her cell phone. She feels very strongly that her cell phone should be “off limits” because it feels more “personal to me.” Since she carries the Blackberry at all times, “it is like an invasion of my personal space … It is almost like someone is sticking advertisements in my purse.”

Angela reads The San Francisco Chronicle and The Oakland Tribune in hard copy most days, although she admits she skims through the news for headlines that are of interest to her. She tries to force herself to read “news news,” meaning politics or world events, but is most interested in entertainment and local stories. When reading the hardcopy newspaper, Angela always notices the ads because they are “huge!” Although she is annoyed these ads take up more visual space than the news, she does skim them because she is interested in the clothing sales or restaurant reviews.

Dalton is a divorced Dalton, 55 man who Accountant has lived in the San Francisco area all his life. His son lives nearby. Dalton is an accountant for local community-based foundations. Six months prior to the interview, Dalton’s fiancé passed away suddenly from complications due to high blood pressure. He went through a difficult period but found some relief when he befriended a local rabbi who introduced spirituality to his life.

San Francisco

Dalton is attracted to advertisements as a form of information and entertainment when they are relevant to his life and interests. When asked what his life would be like

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if advertisements did not exist, Dalton replied: “I like communication to see what’s out there; otherwise I’d be lost. I might as well be back in the 80’s! It is part of living now, there are so many things you can take advantage of … how would you know about it, if you didn’t see or hear an ad or media. It’s all about ads.” Although Dalton has a positive attitude toward advertising, he feels that it has become more invasive over the years. He loves TV commercials, although they sometimes bother him, especially when commercials raise the volume significantly compared to the TV shows he’s watching. He is perturbed that advertisers are trying to control his

reactions and force him to watch something he may not be interested in. Dalton is well-informed about local and world news, and he spends a lot of time reading and watching the news. His morning ritual includes an hour of preparation, including exercising and getting dressed. During this time, he watches the local news and weather. He reads The Examiner during his commute, sees a bit of local and entertainment news on a mini-TV in the elevator in his work office, and he checks The New York Times and BBC online during work hours. His evenings end with about 30 minutes of news on TV. Although he does not spend a lot of time engag-

ing with ads during his news consumption, he is more likely to notice an ad that relates to the article, or if the advertising accompanies “fluff.” “The more serious the news subject, the less likely I am to notice advertising … I’m less receptive to something that is way off track … in entertainment my mind is in a lighter place.”

James is a Chinese James, 34 man who Real Estate lives in Agent a suburb of San Francisco with his 2-year-old daughter, Cassie. James works for his family’s real estate business and commutes into San Francisco daily. During the past two years, he divorced Cassie’s

San Francisco

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mother, moved in with his parents and took full custody of his daughter. His life revolves around Cassie and his new identity as a single father. He explains, “Since I became a father 26 months ago, advertising has become very important to me. It informs me of new products that could be very useful for my baby. But I don’t trust advertisements completely ... So my world depends on user reviews.” James is inherently suspicious of advertisements because he knows they present the positive side of products. Advertisements do not prompt him to make purchase immediately but rather encourage him to do additional online research, especially for unbiased user reviews.

James does most of his research on fatwallet.com and slickdeals.net. After a few experiences with the sites, James became “addicted” to them and now spends time on both sites every night before bed. He never shops in person and uses the Web as his main source of information. James trusts these sites because their users are people like him, who are looking for a good deal and “watching each others’ backs.” It is very important to James that these sites remain valid sources of information, so they don’t turn into “just advertising.” James feels that video provides the deepest information and highest entertainment value. He wishes American advertisers would use video as much

as advertisers across Asia seem to do. “They have these videos on their buses … and they always catch your attention.” James was really taken with a video ad for a new camera that had video capability. He spoke highly about it and even sent it around to family and friends. He also continued his research to find user reviews and actual videos that users had taken. James consumes a lot of news on his own time. On the rare occasion when he does not have his daughter, James watches the late news. Otherwise, he consumes all his news online. He gave up reading printed newspapers a few years ago for convenience. His phone is able to ac-

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cess “mobile versions” of various Web sites, so he has a number of news sites bookmarked. These mobile sites show a picture and a headline, and have almost no advertisements. James says he uses the sites because he can “get my news kick faster and without distractions.” He does not usually pay attention to advertisements while he is reading the news on his phone. James accesses news about local stories, business, real estate, travel, Asia, the financial market and the economy. He is not interested in political news or entertainment news. Since his phone does not always get a signal in the Bay Area transportation system, he downloads articles between the sig-

nals so he can read them while the signal is gone. When James gets to work each morning, he spends about 30 minutes reading the news on his computer. During this time, he is focused on getting the news, so he says he does not pay attention to ads. However, most of the ads he reports as getting his attention occur during this time and space.

worked as a designer for a company specializing in window coverings. He spends half of his time in the office creating proposals and calling clients. The other half is spent driving around to commercial and individual residences to see clients’ windows and design projects. Daniel’s wife works at their 3-year-old daughter’s pre-school and is an artist. As a family they try to “keep our footprint small” by not consuming a lot. This mentality impacts Daniel’s awareness of advertising and his understanding of advertisers’ goals. They do not shop much unless Daniel is looking for “gear” related to outdoor activities, such as mountain biking or

Daniel is a laid-back Daniel, 42 family man Designer of who values Window Treatments the freedom his job provides. After his college graduation, he worked for a few friends in the homerepair field and traveled as a carpenter. For the past five years, he has

San Francisco

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skiing. He enjoys spending time on Web sites related to these activities, which include forums for selling used gear. Daniel views advertising as something that’s “coming from all sides” and believes most families allow advertising to dictate their purchases, especially when children are in the picture. He explains, “I see other people who buy toys constantly, and the kids just pick it up and are like, ‘Next.’ We try not to be like that … we’re not the ultimate consumers. Try to keep it simple.” He recognizes the need for advertising and finds some of it entertaining but worries about being inundated with commercials. “Y get it ou from so many angles, it’s

almost impossible not to. Phone, computer, outside, turn on the radio. It’s hard to avoid, you can’t get away from it … Do I need the advertisement when I turn around to grab a paper towel? When I open my cereal? I think there is a place between nothing and complete saturation.” Since Daniel views himself as someone who does not consume much and his family typically purchases second-hand items, Daniel does not have a very positive view of advertising. He thinks of advertising as manipulation, to which he does not want to succumb. His attitude is not contingent on the form of advertising, although he cited online ads most often. Advertisements that catch his attention are

related to his particular interests. However, ads engage him in limited spaces, mostly on Web sites specifically related to his interests. Daniel dislikes the feeling of being manipulated by advertising. “I don’t like to be assaulted or made paranoid about something. An alarm company had an ad saying, ‘Y don’t love your family ou enough to buy this.’ Something like that … it’s a little heavy-handed. Stuff like that really irritates me.” Daniel has become adept at ignoring advertising when it appears where he expects it, and he is comfortable with the lack of advertising in his life. Daniel’s workday is broken up with many small

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tasks, and in between each one, Daniel typically uses a Web site or his e-mail to transition. As he calls a client and waits for a response, he may quickly check his personal e-mail or open up a news Web site and read quickly. When his client answers the phone, he will close the site. Daniel is exposed to advertising in these small moments online, but he never notices what the ad is for or spends time thinking about it. His engagement level is extremely low during his at-work multi-tasking. The family does not watch much TV but when it does, it happens via the DVR, fast-forwarding through the commercials. The only time Daniel will go back to watch some-

thing is if it’s a movie trailer. He explains, “I have limited time and watching commercials is not the highlight.”

Jack has drifted Jack, 24 through Freelance various Writer jobs since graduating from college with a degree in English literature. Currently, he does freelance work for a variety of contacts and companies, mostly related to music or video-game writing. Although he enjoys the freedom of this work, he worries about his future. Jack is a loner by choice. He explains that he is not a “social butterfly” and is extremely selfreliant.

San Francisco

Jack is a cynical person. He is instinctually distrustful of advertisers and thinks he knows “a lot about how they work.” Jack believes that advertisements show the public only the positive side of the story. He believes that “advertising is largely manipulative in my estimation.” But he acknowledges the role it plays in society and the media. “TV, more or less, does not exist without advertising. Newspapers, large media outlets on the Internet – those places all require the presence of advertisers.” Beyond that, he counts commercials as a source of entertainment. He thinks commercials that are “funny and bizarre” are the most entertaining, although not necessarily the most effective.

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Although Jack does not purchase many items due to his financial limitations, he has a strong appreciation for the creativity behind advertising and will sometimes make a small purchase because he likes an advertisement. He views this as a small “reward” for the advertiser. Jack acknowledges that advertising has become more common, but also that he has become more adept at filtering out what he does not want to see. “There is also a grotesque element to [advertising] depending on the extent to which it is taken. There is one particular area of town in LA where you can hardly see the sky above all the billboards.” He believes that people

of his “generation” are used to multi-tasking and know how to pay attention only to what they consider important. When Jack is outside his home or online he expects to be bombarded by messages but knows how to filter them out. Jack consumes a lot of online news throughout the day, but at a very shallow level. He prefers browsing headlines to reading full articles. Jack does not read about world news or politics because he feels they do not directly impact him. For his music and movie news, Jack regularly checks message boards and user-content sites related to these topics.

Jacqueline Jacqueline, 55 is an Landlord “aging hippie” living in a large San Francisco home with her cat. She grew up in Louisiana and went to school for pre-veterinarian training. After graduation she moved to San Francisco for three years and then lived in Hawaii for six years selling college textbooks and traveling. When her mother became ill, she decided to move back to the mainland and returned to San Francisco, which she considers “the center.”

San Francisco

Jacqueline has held a number of jobs in different industries. She currently works as a landlord but spends most of her time volunteering for local

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community organizations, such as animal foster care, wildlife conservation, volunteer networks and local schools. Jacqueline believes that advertising does not impact her. At her stage of life, she feels it’s more valuable to “get rid of stuff, not buy anything more … As much as advertising wants to sell stuff, to be sane you have to get rid of stuff. Y can’t keep ou accumulating.” When asked about advertising, Jacqueline says, “I think I’m someone who ignores it … I’m just tuning it out.” Jacqueline does not rush to make a purchase. She believes that the largest impact an advertisement might have is to trigger a thought or a note to herself.

Jacqueline feels overwhelmed by the breadth of information available to her. She believes her age might also be a reason why she does not see ads online. Jacqueline feels “that younger generations can process so much. I just get overwhelmed. There is too much information. Help! I’m overwhelmed by too much. Y tend to ou freeze up and block out … I’m in the middle of doing something else and if I keep stopping to do ads, I won’t ever get done.” As a Christmas present to herself, Jacqueline bought an iPhone. It may have been a surprising purchase for someone who is not looking for additional connections or information, but she loves the phone because it syncs

up with her computer calendar. Jacqueline does not check her e-mail on the iPhone and hasn’t encountered advertising on it.

Victoria lives in Victoria, 35 San FranWeb Site cisco with Manager her husband, their three cats, and two dogs. Victoria enjoys her current position at an online ticket agency, but feels she has reached a point of stagnation. In 2001, following 9/11, Victoria decided to go back to school because she had always regretted dropping out of college. After seven years of night classes, Victoria obtained a degree in communications.

San Francisco

Victoria married her

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husband, whom she met through match.com, in 2004. He works in architecture. Victoria’s life motto is “you have to treat yourself and reward yourself every day.” To do so, she takes a daily walk, cooks good food and spends time with her husband and animals. Victoria and her husband are fairly open to advertising, as long as it appears during a time and place when they are relaxed. When they get home from work each night, they cook dinner together and then watch between two to three hours of TV. They do not have a DVR, so they watch all of the commercials. This is a time when Victoria may learn about new products or services.

Victoria’s household is covered in pet hair, and she is constantly on the lookout for a fix. One night, while relaxing in front of the TV with her husband, “A commercial came on. It was a woman and she started using this thing on the couch and I was like, ‘I have to have that’ … and the next day, I went to get one and used it and loved it. And, all my friends who have pets, I told them about it … I actually sent an e-mail to everybody.” The pet hair commercial experience was perfect for her, because it not only fit a personal need, it arrived at a time when she was relaxed at home. It also showed how the product worked so she trusted the quality. Trust is a significant

issue for Victoria when it comes to advertising. She feels she must conduct her own research on any product or service she learns about from a commercial because, “everyone makes these claims. I feel like they are making the claims to sell products, not to improve your life or add value to your life. They are trying to tell you it’ll add value to your life. Y ou then have to ask yourself, what is valuable to me?” She uses consumer reports, user reviews and her social network to find out about how products are used. Victoria appreciates the information that advertisements often provide, but dislikes many of the forms it takes. She feels that advertising now ap-

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pears in new and more invasive spaces. Victoria explains, “It seems to be much more prominent in places it didn’t used to be ... it just seems to be creeping up in more and more places … I’m a little bothered by this.” The one time when she does not mind advertising “creeping up” is when she receives something in

return. Victoria does yoga by watching an on-demand cable show. She does not mind ads before and after the class, “because I know I’m getting it for free, rather than pay for doing that program … I notice them but I don’t really pay attention to them.” Victoria is “known as the person in the know” among her group of

friends. She often e-mails friends, family or co-workers about news or products. She explains, “If I see a news story that I think somebody might be interested in or using a product that I think somebody would be interested in, I’ll share it with them.”

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Section 3: Conclusions and Recommendations
KEY FINDINGS: A Model in Transition Consumers May Be Tired But They’re Still Eager
The subjects in this study shared two key attributes: They were tired, even annoyed, by the current experience of advertising. And they lacked trust in most commercial messaging. At the same time, they also exhibited two promising motivations: They were eager to receive information that met their needs and just as eager to pass that information along to their personal networks. These broad findings suggest that the root of the advertising consumption problem lies in the current disruption of predictable modes of information delivery and the lack of proper filters for making sense of the chaotic new world. The experience of Donna from Atlanta was emblematic of the condition. Even a super-organized executive whose friends call her “Miss Information” found it difficult to keep pace. She religiously stacked published ads into piles every week for sorting, but they served as an intimidating reminder of her constant struggle to stay in the know. Few people pursue the consumption of advertising, or news, with the organization and determination of Donna. They are more likely to give up in the face of mounting messages and disengage from the experience altogether. For instance, some of the study subjects in New Y ork who encountered advertising everywhere, including the subway, reached the point of “not noticing” it anymore, according to their observers. Not noticing is a step up from the hostility some exhibited for unwanted advertising, but the problem was the same in any case. The communication

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appeared to be failing at a fundamental level.

ment from consumers. But that idea proved too limiting in the context of the ethnographic analysis. Many of the subjects in the study said they appreciated good creative forms of advertising but the overall environment was so polluted it didn’t matter. The good was getting lost amid all the bad. In effect, asking whether it was a good time to talk wasn’t going to be good enough. The overall environment for making a welcomed connection to consumers needed to be addressed.

Better Content or Timing Are Not Enough to Connect
An initial hypothesis, formed in the first phase of this project based on existing research, was that people’s disaffection with advertising could be remedied with better content or better timing. The thrust of the question – “Is now a good time to talk?” – was that advertising might be welcomed if it were good enough and arrived at the right moment. The early research suggested that more imaginative work from the creative teams of advertising agencies and better ad placement would lead to a higher level of engage-

view the behavior and responses of the study group as evidence of a larger communications disorder in the evolving culture. Belinda from New Y ork summed up the situation: “I think there is too much advertising. Every available space is taken up, and I feel like I can never get away from it.” This plainly constituted a cry of desperation, and even the most organized subject in the study group, Donna the stockpiler of print ads in Atlanta, had to acknowledge the true dimensions of the consumer’s challenge: “I kinda’ look at advertising as a positive and a negative. On the positive side, all day long we have messages fired at us … I welcome that in a way because it’s

Ad Annoyance Is a Symptom of a Larger Disorder
As the ethnography unfolded, the Context anthropologists came to

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a way of me staying connected to what’s going on ... the negative side is that because advertising is so prominent, so much so that your eyes get tired … sometimes it can be invasive … I feel like their goal is to get inside my mind.” Donna’s comments, or symptoms, suggest that the information and advertising “fatigue” that subjects complained about was actually something more serious. What some of these subjects were really saying is that they were more than tired. They were overwhelmed and, in some cases, shocked into inactivity by the amount of information they were receiving. The ultimate shock to the system comes from the constant, but futile, at-

tempts people make – passively, actively, consciously and subconsciously – to process all the information they encounter. In short, it can’t be done, which suggests a true disorder, rather than a transitory feeling of fatigue, Context concluded.

how would you know about it if you didn’t see or hear an ad or media? It’s all about ads.” Along these lines, others grudgingly admitted that interruptive ads actually can deliver necessary and useful information. In fact, in response to the question of what they would do if advertising went away, many subjects were unable to describe what could replace the function of advertising in their lives. While that may be comforting to publishers and advertisers, it’s not a rationale for continuing to conduct business as usual. The situation begs the question of what the creators of commercial content should do differ-

Commercial Speech is Still Valued
The subjects of the study made it clear that as much as advertising and commercial speech may be annoying, it is also necessary. Dalton from San Francisco, for instance, said: “I like communication to see what’s out there; otherwise I’d be lost. I might as well be back in the 80’s! It is part of living now, there are so many things you can take advantage of …

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ently to get people the content they know they need.

true and what did not. The dominant position of user-generated content on these sites also provided subjects with a sense that they and their peers were regaining some control over the communication process. From an anthropological perspective, the reason these sites cut through the clutter is that they are about creating the right environment to foster the right relationships that establish productive and efficient conversations. For the subjects of this ethnography, these userled sites offered a structure to filter communications and minimize the noise. In some ways, these sites are filling a role historically played by trusted

Social Vetting Opens a Path to Restoring Trust
With the explosion of social networking as a backdrop to the timing of this study, it was no surprise that the subjects looked to their friends, family and like-minded peers for guidance on how to vet information and ads. Subjects in the study found some clarity in the chaos by tapping into Web tools that could clear away the clutter. Working through social-networking sites like Facebook and consumer sites like Fatwallet, people were able to find information and vet it with others to ascertain what made sense and what rang

packagers of information, such as local newspapers, which connected readers with advertisers in a trusted environment.

The ‘Social Contract’ Is in Need of Repair
The popularity of usergenerated sites and social networks is a movement that has meaning for many aspects of the culture. But one message it sends is unmistakable: People are looking to establish a new framework for communication in the digital age. Old models, many of which were characterized by one party delivering the information and the other party passively receiving it, are not measuring up to people’s expecta-

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tions for what technology should be capable of enabling. Why put up with the torrent of pushed messages from information providers and advertisers when there ought to be a better way to sort through it? Providers of information are doing what they do because they can, and those on the receiving end are getting increasingly anxious about managing the overload. Based on the observations from this study group, the anthropologists said they saw evidence that the “social contract” between providers and users of information had been strained, if not broken. There seemed to be no boundaries anymore between what could be done and what should be

done in the information space. As long as technology enabled it, why not pop up an online ad, paper over the subway walls and cars, and generally invade every available space with advertising?

Out of Disorder Comes ‘Communitas’
The Context team concluded that a new social contract was needed in the information space and that the people themselves were starting to take matters into their own hands. “One could say that people are looking to create a new structure and they are not sure how to go about forging this new structure,” observed Robbie Blinkoff, Context’s principal anthropologist.

“But that kind of thinking presupposes that people are knowingly building a new way of communication. For now, people’s behavior suggests they are just trying to muddle through. The process of building a fully functioning new communication infrastructure will take some time.” Blinkoff and his team used the anthropological term “Communitas” to describe the transition the culture appears to be making from one set of communications standards to another. “From an anthropological point of view, societal structures disappear when they no longer provide the guidance they have in the past,” said Blinkoff. “When these structures

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emergency is a demonstration of Communitas, as like-minded people converged for a common cause. In the case of the advertising study group, people were expressing similar frustrations and needs and falling back on their social networks and peer groups for help. That doesn’t mean chaos will reign. In fact, a robust Communitas can create a solid foundation for a new information order to emerge, Blinkoff maintained.

The hippie movement was an example of Communitas. (AP Photo)

disappear, anthropologists suggest an era of Communitas is taking hold.” Despite its academic ring, Communitas provides a straightforward framework for dissecting the situation. In a time of Communitas, people use egalitarian communities to share feelings, ideas and solutions. In the pro-

cess, people re-identify who they are, and society as a whole can redefine what social structures will exist in the future. Historically, the kibbutz movement in Israel or the hippie subculture in the United States could be considered examples of Communitas. More recently, even the situation-specific response to the Haiti earthquake

The News Model Meets Communitas
The news model that Context and AP constructed in their first collaboration has direct application to this line of reasoning.

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In the original model, the news was broken down into four basic components, or “atoms”: Facts (meaning breaking news), Updates (continuing developments), Back Story (the background or context) and Spin-Offs (future angles). The four constituted the main ingredients of a comprehensive news report. The thrust of the original model was that those ingredients are no longer nicely baked into satisfying meals. With search engines and headline aggregators scraping up content from news sites across the W and consumers sharing eb content with each other, the ingredients are scattered and consumed haphazardly. The result is hit-and-miss delivery and consumption.

AP’s response to this problem, after analyzing the atomic model, was to focus on producing headlines, short dispatches and longer stories as distinct parts of the news report. Along with that change, a metadata system was introduced to electronically tag the content for smart linking and searching online. Likewise in the advertising world, technology has been brought to bear to deliver ads that are targeted either to content type or user behavior. However, users in this study still complained they were encountering ads that were more interruptive than engaging. At a high level, the two AP-Context studies have demonstrated that both

news and advertising have been “atomized” in the digital space, leaving consumers feeling as if they are being bombarded. Linking and targeting content and ads may bring down the noise level, but returning some sense of order to the space requires more work. AP and Context reimagined the atomic model to include both news and advertising as a first step toward connecting consumption and Communitas. To capture the fragmentation of the overall information marketplace, the original atomic parts were relabeled to apply more broadly to all forms of communication. Facts became Information; Updates were renamed

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Information, including news and advertising, has been "atomized" in the digital marketplace, and consumers struggle to get the right content at the right time. Cultural anthropologists believe producers and consumers of information could come together in a spirit of community to improve communication. The term "Communitas" incorporates the necessary ingredients.

STRATEGIC. These elements are the foundation for fostering and strengthening the ethos of the Information Communitas. ■

and ultimately ended up sharing some information or questions with their peers to sort things out. The experience of the subjects in the previous news study had followed a similar pattern. They complained of getting inundated by too many Facts and Updates and felt they were missing the breadth and depth of the Back Story or future Spin-off angles. What seemed to be missing in both cases was a framework for improving the chances for successful communication to occur between producers and consumers. The Context anthropologists theorized that the characteristics of Communitas could be harnessed as strategic and









TACTICAL. These elements speak more directly to ways of keeping the communication going and ensuring that the Information Communitas remains intact. ■

Overload; Back Story was tagged Investigation; and Spin-offs became Sharing. With their new labels, the atoms could be seen as the fundamental components of the evolving

communications order. The subjects of the advertising study generally followed this kind of consumption path: They encountered ads, got overloaded, tried to investigate

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tactical tools to provide that framework. In effect, Communitas could become the force that binds the “atoms.” They focused on these attributes of the Communitas phenomenon, viewed in the context of the study group’s responses:

if you listen to the radio, read the newspaper, read magazines, it is just everywhere.”

2. Social Contract.
Communitas is built around a set of unwritten rules, a social contract. Break the rules and your ability to work within the system of Communitas is significantly reduced. Ethan from New Y ork had a visceral reaction to the placement of an ad on the “sacred” cover of Esquire, a magazine he had read and loved since he was a teenager. Angela disliked the appearance of ads on her Blackberry. She felt as if someone was sticking ads “in her purse.”

1. Collaboration.
Collaboration may be summed up as people coming together with a mutual respect for each other’s roles. That mutual respect was starkly absent in the experience of several of the advertising study subjects. Angela of San Francisco said she felt as if she were being “served on a platter” to all advertisers. “It doesn’t matter where you are. In your home, on your way to work, bus, taxis, at work,

going is an understanding of accountability to one another, fostering an inter-relatedness that amounts to a collective kinship. James of San Francisco said he loved using the Web site fatwallet.com because it incorporated user reviews and was constantly being updated with new offers. He marveled that “everyone is watching out for everyone,” which kept him coming back. Others cited yelp.com or opentable.com in the same regard.

4. Honesty. Honesty
relates to providing information in an open and transparent way. Leslie from New Y ork said, “I have this fear of advertising that I’m not getting the whole story.” Daniel from San Francisco put it

3. Kinship. People
come to understand that what keeps Communitas

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even more bluntly: “There is a fine line between promising the world and lying, or telling the truth and lying. It is not a very clean-cut line. Advertising walks that line.”

5. Reciprocity. Reciprocal relationships are absolutely essential in Communitas. People agree to a relationship of give and take. Victoria from San Francisco appreciated getting “free,” on-demand yoga programming on cable in exchange for watching ads. V ama from Kansas City accepted the same trade-off to view television episodes online.

unacceptable in Communitas. Dalton of San Francisco, one of the subjects most positively disposed to advertising, said he was most attracted to offers that were relevant to his life and interests. Others in the study also gave into advertising that had direct meaning to their lives. In applying these six attributes to the information market, Context positioned Collaboration, Social Contract and Kinship as strategic brand elements. The anthropologists concluded that by demonstrating the willingness to collaborate with consumers, information providers and advertisers could begin to restore the “social contract” and inspire a kinship with the audience.

“People you let into your world of information and communication sharing, people you let really know you and whom you hold accountable, are people with whom you can have a kin connection,” Blinkoff said. If the strategic elements set the overall tone for a relationship, then Honesty, Reciprocity and Relevance could be used as tactical tools to improve the ongoing communication with the audience, Context said. Above all else, understanding what the audience likes and doesn’t like is critical to creating a positive, engaging environment. The study subjects were unanimous in their acceptance of ads that were funny, well de-

6. Relevance. Not supplying relevant information – the right information at the right time in the right format – would be

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signed and relevant. Those designed to distract (the much-hated online pop-up, for instance) were clearly capable of destroying Communitas. Because news was considered “serious” by many of the participants, distractions in the news environment were seen as especially annoying. Participants spoke of ignoring ads in the news space, and yet the experience of James in San Francisco was telling. Most of the ads he could remember were consumed during his online news consumption, a signal perhaps that it was indeed a “good time to talk” and to create Communitas.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Putting Communitas to Work
In the wake of both the news and advertising studies, AP and Context concluded that restoring a level of trust to the information marketplace is essential to cutting through the clutter and reconnecting with consumers. With the information market in transition between oneway delivery and two-way interaction between producers and consumers, the anthropological lessons of Communitas provided keen insight. Following is a set of recommendations, based on applying those lessons to the observations from this study.

Match Your Organization’s Principles to the Attributes of Communitas
Take the Communitas test. How well do you score?

Test your company’s business model against the attributes that make up Communitas. How do you score? How do your strategies, products, services and people fare in terms of collaboration, adhering to the social contract, developing kinship, reciprocity and relevance? Not every aspect of your business will score high in every category, which will highlight opportunities for change.

Create Environments for Communitas to Break Out
The solution is not just to

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create more engaging content. The solution is to create better environments for engaging with content.

their relationship with the audience.

Parting Thought: Give Real Communication a Chance
Whether you are a student of anthropology or not, the message from this research is that a new path is opening for both providers and consumers of information to consider.

Better creative content is only part of the solution. The bottom line is to have more two-way conversations with consumers. While that’s not always possible in either the news or the advertising business, demonstrating that openness as a fundamental part of your communications process would send an important message to the audience and create the opportunity for Communitas to take root.

Embrace the Challenge, No Matter the Size of Your Organization
Information companies and advertisers of all sizes should benefit from strengthening

Because the Communitas ethos is egalitarian and all about sharing, smaller organizations should reap big benefits from adopting its key attributes. Major institutional players, by contrast, might worry that an egalitarian approach carries more risks than benefits. But in a marketplace where companies of all sizes are subject to the clickstream from search and sharing, everyone starts as a hyperlink. Establishing a two-way relationship with the audience provides a point of differentiation, as well as a pipeline for feedback and ideas that can drive innovation and growth.

The evolution of the Internet seems to have produced a stark choice for information providers between using technology to flood the market or cultivating community to improve the chances for real communication. This study concludes decisively in favor of the latter. As Daniel of San Francisco put it, “I think there is a place between nothing and complete saturation.”

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AP’s Engagement Model
Agency Makes a ‘Two-Way’ Audience Connection
The Associated Press conducted its advertising ethnography with Context-Based Research Group as part of its strategic planning process. One of the key goals of that process in 2009 was to identify a “game changer” that could reverse the dire trends in the news business. Context’s first collaboration with AP came in 2007, focusing on youngadult news consumption in six cities around the world. The results of that study, released publicly at the annual World Editors Forum in 2008, found evidence of a condition that Context labeled “news fatigue.” The symptoms were similar across geography. People who were living their lives online felt bombarded by headlines and short snippets of news and were looking for something more engaging. earlier in this report show, the short answer to that question was a resounding YES. Indeed, the situation seemed even worse in the advertising realm, based on the experience of participants in four U.S. cities, who were unanimous in their frustration with the bombardment of interruptive advertising. Many in the advertising study said that while they recognized the value of advertising in their lives, they were choosing to tune it out. These results supported a view of the online world that went beyond traffic patterns to focus on users’ needs and wants. That view was being expressed

Both News and Ads Contribute to ‘Fatigue’
The second Context-AP ethnography was launched in 2009 to understand more about the “fatigue” syndrome. How else was it affecting the business? Specifically, did it extend to users’ experience with advertising, the lifeblood of the media business? As the results presented

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in real numbers by 2009, as social networks began to rival portals and search engines as Internet audience hubs. AP and other news publishers had taken notice of that trend and had begun to use the social networks to connect with consumers in their new comfort zones. Data also showed that the audiences for the social networks and news sites greatly overlapped. The “game-changing” strategy that AP ultimately identified was to make connecting with the fans as important as managing the content. To do that, it combined what it had already learned about news consumption with what it was beginning to learn about audience engagement. What

Facts Updates

Back story Future stories/ Spin-offs
emerged was a framework called the “engagement model.” In their 2008 study, AP and Context had developed a view of online news consumption that separated news into four basic “atomic” components: Facts, Updates, Back Story and Spin-offs. The


thrust of the report was that the subjects who were studied felt overloaded with Facts and Updates and longed to find more breadth and depth in the news. The engagement model is based on the idea that delivering more of the Back Story and Spin-offs

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might entice users to go beyond their conditioned searching and scanning behavior and engage with the news at a deeper level. This kind of approach also drew support from the concept of “Communitas,” which became the signature call of the second ethnography. Those findings added an environmental dimension to the model, suggesting that in addition to good content, the situation also had to be right to engage users. It had to be a “good time to talk,” as Context put it.

a behind-the-scenes blog of a prototypical news event, the Senate confirmation hearings for thenSupreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. The blog format was chosen to break the “wire-story” mode of delivery, and the content of the blog was designed to deliver a backstage view of the proceedings. Most important, the audience was invited into the conversation by enabling social media interaction. The blog itself was set up on Yahoo News to harness a major source of Internet news traffic. Interaction was enabled in three ways: Comments could be made in the Buzz area of Yahoo; a special Twitter account was set up to attract followers

AP experimented with new formats during the Sotomayor confirmation hearing. (AP Photo)

from outside Yahoo; and a Wiki-style site for longer, user-generated commentary was set up on a separate platform provided by start-up Mixed Ink. The project ran for a week and generated an incremental 20 percent more page views than Yahoo’s typical traffic to AP news stories. The Twitter account attracted more than 3,000 followers, and several hundred very engaged users took the time to register at Mixed Ink and compose collaborative

Model 1.0: Blog Plus Tweets
AP’s first iteration of the engagement model was elegantly simple. It was launched in July 2009 as

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essays, for and against the nomination. The project also energized the AP journalists covering the hearings, as a team of writers, photographers, video journalists and graphic artists simultaneously produced traditional-style coverage, along with the new “backstory” blog. To broaden the coverage, several affiliate newspapers of The Associated Press contributed content and expertise to the blog and received referral traffic from the massive Yahoo audience. The success of the Sotomayor experiment led to a second project in December 2009 for the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. Taking the model to the next level, AP

was joined in that project by 10 other news agencies from around the world, including Agence France Presse, Press Association of the United Kingdom and ANP of the Netherlands, among others. The same formula was used again – blog plus Twitter feed plus Mixed Ink – but this time the blog, dubbed “The Climate

Pool,” was set up inside the social network Facebook. With the world’s leading social network as the hub, the connection to consumers became even more direct, as more than 10,000 Facebook members chose to become “fans” of the blog, 70 percent of them from outside the United States. Another 2,000 followed the Twitter account.

The Wall of the Facebook page devoted to the Climate talks.

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These projects led almost immediately to the creation of a flagship Facebook page for AP (http:// www.facebook.com/apnews) and an overarching Twitter account (http:// www.twitter.com/ap), managed by a new Social Network team in the agency’s New Y ork headquarters. These standing presences in the social networks are designed to keep the two-way channel of communication open with “fans” and “followers” of AP. Topics being discussed cover the full gamut of AP’s news coverage, from serious to fun. In the model of the Sotomayor and Climate projects, the content being placed on Facebook and Twitter provides a behindthe-scenes view of the

news wire. For instance, when the Facebook page was launched, it featured a story about how the AP correspondent in Haiti survived the earthquake, with a link to a video tour of his severely damaged home and office. The Facebook and Twitter presences also are being used to promote news coverage from AP and its affiliates and to point to that coverage wherever it is displayed around the Internet.

The Goal is to Build Trust
While promotion is important, engagement between the creators and consumers of news is the primary objective of the social network outreach. The Facebook and Twit-

ter initiatives are the first steps toward a goal of enabling individuals to “follow” certain news stories or events, just as they do their friends and family in the online social space. The idea is not literally to transfer news consumption to the social space, but to adapt to the meme. Ultimately, consumers should be enabled to express their preferences and establish a reliable connection with trusted news sources, who will not only keep them informed, but also interact with them. To accomplish that feat mechanically, the AP is continuing to build out its electronic metadata system for tagging content, so that it can be discovered more easily and potentially linked to user prefer-

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

ences. In addition, AP has extended its system for creating the right content for the right kind of user experience with an initiative called “0-1-2-3-4.” That system began two years ago with “1-2-3,” requiring journalists around the world to compose headlines first, then presenttense dispatches, followed by more in-depth stories. The new “0” and “4” would bracket that experience by adding an alert on the front end, such as a Twitter “tweet,” and a back-end promise to keep users informed of breaking developments. As new opportunities emerge for experiencing the news beyond Web sites, through smartphones and other portable devices, a

strong connection between producers and consumers will be critical. The Context anthropologists argued, with their interpretation of Communitas, that the marketplace for information appeared to be in transition between producer push to consumer pull. The AP’s engagement model is built to navigate that transition by taking news consumers behind the scenes, allowing them open access to journalists and then letting the fans and followers have their say. Content providers and advertisers alike will want to be a part of this new paradigm. It is important to note that “The Climate Pool” project on Facebook, even as an experiment, attracted a

social-networking sponsorship from the global giant PepsiCo. No flashy graphics or pop-ups were employed, only a company logo with a single sentence expressing the company’s support for the “conversation.” The logo linked to PepsiCo’s Web site, featuring information on its own environmental initiatives. That experience signals potential support for these kinds of news projects from like-minded advertisers. Still to be tested is whether consumers might also be willing to pay to establish this new level of engagement with trusted news sources. If so, the foundation could be laid for a new mix of pay and advertising support for the news business.

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

In the meantime, while those new business models are being developed, information providers have a promising new trail to follow in the online social space. In the model of

“Communitas,” what start as conversations could mature into a new structure for communication that has pay-offs for both producers and consumers. As Robbie Blinkoff, principal

Context anthropologist, observed at the end of the 2009 ethnography: “Y ou have to socialize the space before you can monetize it.”

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

An Ad Agency Pledges to Stop the Bombardment
What would an advertising agency say about “Communitas” and a new “engagement model” for communication? The Associated Press and Context-Based Research Group had a builtin focus group for the findings of their advertising ethnography: Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc., of Baltimore. Carton Donofrio is an award-winning agency that also happens to be a sister company to Context. The ethnographic research group was founded in 1999, when the CEO of Carton Donofrio asked cultural anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff a key question: How can we get better information about our clients’ customers so that we can create better advertising? A decade later, that founding principle for Context and Carton Donofrio found new expression in the inquiry undertaken for The Associated Press. The central conclusion of the study – that the social contract between advertisers, the media, agencies and consumers had been broken – had enormous implications for the ad agency and its own industry. When presented with the findings of the AP ethnography, Carton Donofrio concluded that it had to take action in its own realm. Other signals also troubled the ad agency. A recent global survey by the research firm GFK found that people ranked advertisers second only to politicians as untrustworthy.

An Industry Response: ‘Stop The Adness’
In the spirit of “Communitas,” Carton Donofrio developed an initiative to reform advertising from the inside by giving outsiders – consumers themselves – a voice. The theme of the

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

initiative was creatively ironic for an industry synonymous with “mad men.” The campaign, launched in February 2010, took the name, “Stop The Adness.” A Web domain, StopTheAdness.org, was set up as an online forum where consumers, agencies, advertisers and the media could share their thoughts about what is needed to make advertising better. It was designed as an open conduit for conversation, where the advertising community and consumers could explore what they really want from each other and, ultimately, repair their social contract.

pledge to consumers, based directly on the findings of the AP study. Carton Donofrio has asked other agencies and marketers to also sign this pledge. By

doing so, they promise to make their advertising more respectful, meaningful and rewarding to consumers.

The Pledge
At its core, StopTheAdness.org has a nine-point

“The Pledge” on StopTheAdness.org

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

Collaboration – We must work with the
marketplace — coming together with mutual respect for each other’s roles — to determine what more effective communication looks like.

Constantly collaborate with you by really listening to your wants and needs, and responding with information that actually meets them. Reinvent the social contract of advertising by creating communications you welcome into your life instead of avoid.

Social Contract – The unwritten code that

defines our behavior has been broken by advertisers, agencies and the media. We must show consumers that with their help we can rebuild it.

Kinship – We must recognize mutual responsibility and accountability within the marketplace as a means toward building better communication.

Always recognize my responsibility to you and be considerate of your time, privacy and feelings.

Tactical: Honesty – Marketing spin and hype will
no longer be tolerated in the new communications landscape, so we must be honest and transparent. Communicate with you in honest, real and authentic ways.

Reciprocity – Good communication requires
give and take; so we must listen and respond accordingly.

Always reward your attention with something that is useful, entertaining or informative.

Relevance – The market will listen when
our message is relevant and targeted; so we must do more to better craft our messages.

Create, execute and deliver communications that are audience-appropriate and relevant to your life.

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

Behavioral: Information – We must provide solid facts
on which to base our communication and advertising.

Communicate with you in honest, real and authentic ways.

Investigation – We must provide a clear
roadmap for people who want to dig deeper.

Help you investigate more deeply if you need more information to make the best decision.

Overload – We must be careful how much
and how often we communicate so as not to overload consumers.

Never bombard you with messages anywhere and everywhere just because I can.

Sharing – When our information and ad-

vertising is shared we will know we are doing our job right.

Enable you to share our messages with others who may also need them or who can help you make the best decision.

The Lab
The second aspect of the initiative is the Lab, which is an online forum where people can contribute to the conversation and help redefine the social contract. Here, consumers can give direct input to marketers, letting them know what works and what doesn’t for them. Feedback can then be used to make advertising more
“The Lab” on StopTheAdness.org

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

effective and meaningful. Anthropologists will evaluate these conversations and provide insight and recommendations through periodic reports.

Concrete Examples
Additionally, to make the conversation tangible, the site invites visitors to upload examples of people getting it right or wrong on a pair of pages called the “Wall of Fame” and the “Wall of Shame.” Carton Donofrio hopes the examples will spark conversation about how advertisers can improve their messaging and interaction with consumers.

“Wall of Fame/Shame” on StopTheAdness.org

videos that bring to life the worst offending “adness.” One spotlights the annoying interruptions of pop-up banners brought to life. An e-mail was sent to a list of advertisers and marketers inviting them to learn “10 ways” to make
“What if Pop-Up Ads Were Real” Video

How Word Is Being Spread
The agency is spreading the word by launching

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

ruary that featured the findings of the AP study and the Stop The Adness campaign. Carton Donofrio also won a spot to present the campaign at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Transformation 2010 conference. While the movement is in its infancy, both Carton Donofrio and the trade association are optimistic about the impact the campaign could have. The webinar incited several rallying cries from the nearly 200 professionals who participated. One verbatim comment from a participant captured the essence of the study and the industry challenge ahead: “W need e to make a transition from advertising as ‘bombardment’ back to advertising

as ‘communication.’ ” The Web site for the campaign can be accessed at http://www.stoptheadness.org.

“10 ways” E-mail

their advertising more effective. To prevent the outreach itself from being regarded as “adness,” the e-mail asked at the top, “Would you like to be removed from this e-mail list in the future?” The press was alerted to the initiative and the American Association of Advertising Agencies hosted a webinar in Feb-

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

Our second plunge into cultural anthropology was as invigorating as the first. After having studied news consumption, we ventured into the much less familiar space of advertising. Once again, we enjoyed the expert guidance of the Baltimore-based Context-Based Research Group and Robbie Blinkoff ’s team of ethnographers. We are indebted this time as well to the team at Carton Donofrio Partners, a Baltimore advertising agency and sister company to Context. With the help of both the anthropologists and the advertising executives, we were able to dig down all the way to that “deep structure” of consumer behavior that Context says holds the secrets for understanding how to serve audience needs. Robbie, the managing director and principal anthropologist at Context, was joined again in this project by his research director, Tracy Pilar Johnson, whose insights helped to distill the academic notion of “Communitas” into an organizing framework for this study. Stephanie Simpson, director of strategy and client services, helped frame our mission at the start and was a guiding light throughout the project. Analysts Leah Kabran and Shannon Gray designed the research phase and managed the anthropologists in the field. Anthropologists Jessica Libove, Craig Tower and Vincent Goldberg conducted ethnographic field research on the project. At Carton Donofrio, Chief Strategy Officer Jamie Rice provided the wisdom that shaped our understanding of the advertising marketplace. George Wood, director of interactive production, was a thought leader for the project as well as the main producer of the final report and Web site, working with Becky Kanach Quade and Michael Jaffe. David Smith, executive creative director for the agency, conceived the classic “put your money where your mouth is” campaign for advertisers called “Stop the Adness.”

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners

A New Model for Communication

As the ethnographic fieldwork was being conducted in 2009, The Associated Press was separately working on new techniques for engaging news consumers. Key players in that process were journalists Ted Anthony and Lauren McCullough, whose keen insights on social networking have shaped AP’s response to the same forces we have analyzed here. AP’s strategy team of Andon Baltakov, Paola Allais and Ruthie Shek have assisted in all aspects of the project and have helped to cement ethnography as a cornerstone of AP strategy development. Director of Corporate Communications Ellen Hale and deputy Laurie Morris provided the guidance that helped us turn the results of our research into a story for a wider audience. And, of course, the 24 subjects of this ethnography, whose names shall remain anonymous, provided the true stories that made this effort so valuable.
Jim Kennedy The Associated Press March 2010

A research report from The Associated Press, Context-Based Research Group and Carton Donofrio Partners