Madison Avenue's finest today convene in Miami, Florida,
alongside their country cousins for the agency world's annual gabfest -- the 2004 management conference of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Among the tablets of wisdom to be handed down at Wednesday's opening session will be the none-too-palatable findings of a consumer survey conducted for the AAAA by market researcher Yankelovich Partners.

The arcane art of advertising, it seems, is in decline. The effectiveness of ad campaigns is deteriorating, Yankelovich president J Walker Smith will tell delegates, because "negative perceptions about advertising have substantially increased."

Explains Smith: "People have a love-hate relationship with advertising. But a far greater percentage are saying they have concerns, primarily related to its growing obtrusiveness."

Fifty-four percent of the survey sample told Yankelovich they "avoid buying products that overwhelm them with advertising and marketing"

Sixty percent opined that advertising "is much more negative than just a few years ago", while 61% percent agreed with the statement that the amount of advertising and marketing to which they are exposed "is out of control."

Few of the delegates will like what they hear; fewer yet dare ignore the remorseless numbers ...

• 65% believe they "are constantly bombarded with too much" advertising.

• 69% said they "are interested in products and services that would help them skip or block marketing."

• 45% say the amount of advertising and marketing to which they are exposed "detracts from the experience of everyday life".

• 33% "would be willing to have a slightly lower standard of living to live in a society without marketing and advertising".

But like every good presenter, Smith will switch from Cassandra mode in his summation. He'll tell his audience there are ways in which they can narrow "the growing gap between how consumers want to be communicated with and the way advertisers communicate with them".

He cites as an example the view of some survey respondents that "there's an opportunity for advertising to become a source of competitive advantage for a brand if it's focused on product features and services."

"The marketing itself has become part of how consumers view a brand. So if you have two brands at parity with each other, more and more the one people are likely to do business with is the one that does a better job in reaching them with its advertising."

All's well that ends well.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff