Monday, January 27, 2014


There was a report this morning on "National Public Radio" that I think is worth reading about or listening to, depending on how you prefer to consume media.

You can read it here or listen to it (3:48), here.

Basically, it's a story, like the story of our industry, of too much noise. In the case of hospitals, like Boston Medical Center's 7 North, nurses and other staff were hearing 90,000 alarms a week. What was happening, of course, thanks to that onslaught of noise was that alarms were being ignored.

Deborah Whalen a clinical nurse manager at the hospital said: "Alarm fatigue is when there are so many noises on the unit that it actually desensitizes the staff. If you have multiple, multiple alarms going off with varying frequencies, you just don't hear them."

Nationally, this not hearing of of alarms has led to more than 200 deaths in 2011.

It seems to me that we in advertising are precipitating our own form of alarm fatigues. I'll call it message fatigue. Where back in pre-internet days an advertiser would produce maybe ten customer-facing communications a year, today we produce scores, or hundreds, or thousands or more.

Just last week, I reviewed and approved 72 social media posts for a client. This is probably 5% of what they send out annually.

Message fatigue doesn't kill people like alarm fatigue can.

But it does deafen customers.

The every-second-onslaught of drivel has turned them off.

The signal to noise ratio is all off.

I think we'd all be better served by fewer, bigger messages.
PS.   When I was a kid, I had a summer job as a game-room-attendant at an amusement park called Playland in Rye, NY. The game-room itself was probably 30-feet deep by 50-feet wide and had probably 40 pinball machines in it. As you can imagine, it was a cacophony.

My first few days as an attendant, I couldn't sleep at night. I kept hearing bells and buzzers and dings and dongs in my head. But after a week or so, I got used to the din. And went back to sleeping like a baby.

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