A survey of 1,500 Australians by the Magnum Opus Partners agency, exploring the ability to recall brands and advertising, found that 57% were unable to come up with an ad they felt positive about, while 66% couldn't manage one they'd hated.
"Almost nothing seems to be both cutting through and impressing people," said Stephen Yolland, director of strategy at Magnum Opus Partners. "There are successful exceptions, but certainly very little is being spontaneously remembered."
The brands whose ads were recollected were mostly retailers, including Woolworths, Aldi, Coles and Kmart, B&T reported.
The results seem to run counter to this year's WARC 100 analysis of the world's best marketing campaigns, which noted the strength-in-depth of the marketing discipline in Australia and New Zealand, "which consistently outperforms its share of adspend in terms of the number of campaigns included in the WARC 100 ranking".
While effectiveness is not the same as awareness, Yolland worried that the apparent absence of "watercooler moment" advertising "does suggest that both the creativity and the entertainment value of the work we do has declined somewhat".
He added that it was also possible there is simply too much advertising, leading to consumers tuning out.
The inexorable growth of digital advertising is another factor that may be leading to the apparent decline in product and brand awareness, Yolland suggested, noting that "where online spending has replaced expenditure in other mediums, as opposed to supplementing it, there may well have been a fall in both ad and brand standout".
Online ads do have a role to play, he said, but "they are pretty much useless in terms of creating brand positivity, as they are nearly always transactional in nature.
"And frankly, it is very hard to convey emotion in a banner ad or create an emotional connection with it."
Data sourced from B&T, Ad News; additional content by WARC staff