Who likes being interrupted? The answer is nobody (a microscopic-in-size group that does not include your target audience btw).
The biggest change in the marketing and advertising sector in the past 5 years is how good audiences now are at avoiding what they see as traditional advertising. This is a big problem for brands.
Online, people take pride in how quickly they find the tiny “x” to kill the pop-up ad. It’s like a slightly annoying video game that people still feel they must win as quickly as possible. On TV, people are increasingly streaming commercial-free versions of shows on Netflix and are recording shows and fast-forwarding through the ads. The latest TiVo innovation is to be able to skip entire ad segments with the touch of a single button. Imagine that, the best selling point for an additional fee monthly service is to never see another TV commercial.
For outdoor/OOH (out of home), and frankly all “can’t skip” TV and other ads as well, people now immediately look away and go to their mobile device for content they do not consider an interruption so as to make those seconds “quality time” vs. annoyed or “interrupted” time.
Repetition of the annoying ads isn’t helping break through the noise, it drives people to get better at avoiding the ad while simultaneously annoying them and reinforcing a negative image of the brand. Despite the best efforts of marketing and ad agencies to hide the true measures of ad consumption and “impact” and point their customers at misleading metrics like households, impressions, click through rate (CTR) numbers, etc., those who invest in advertising as a means of driving awareness (and ultimately generating demand) are becoming very concerned about the true lack of impact and return they are achieving from their investment. The typical agency answer of doubling down on more advertising seems increasingly disingenuous and is perhaps only surpassed in offensiveness by the still common practice of cranking up the volume of ads to ear-bleeding decibel levels.
The solution for advertisers and marketers is simple, but not necessarily easy; do a thorough targeting and insight drill to isolate your target audience, find the means to reach them, and then either:
- Entertain and Intrigue
- Inform and Educate
These are the only ways for vendors to consistently break through, be heard, and get the recognition and message consumption desired by the brand. Branded content (or its ugly cousins, product placement and advertainment) addresses #1 and has been around and had success since the popular Texaco Star Theatreradio and TV show in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. More recently, the “entertain and intrigue” approach has evolved and been advanced by some of the best brands and agencies. Milestones include the BMW Filmsproject, Dove’s “Real Beauty,”the Red Bullevent series, and even my beloved former agency’s project Cayman Went, the first feature film which was entertainment that also subtly branded our client, the Cayman Islands. Now on Netflix and DVD,Cayman Went was promoted and shown in theaters in New York, Chicago and Miami, not coincidentally all cities which fly direct to the Cayman Islands.
People also want to be informed and get smarter, especially on topics that can help them in their job/career. Enron movie title aside, people want to be “the smartest guy/gal in the room” and if you have targeted them correctly and therefore know what their problems and interests are, then you have the insight required to create the messages and content they will want to consume. Getting something on Ted.comis a home run but you don’t need one of the excellent “For Dummies” books to know that people are obsessed with being more informed and are searching far and wide for content to educate them and make them smarter and “in the know.” Tradecraft skills are of course required to develop, package and present it most effectively, but the real heavy lifting is in: 1. Deeply understanding the problem your company and product can solve (along with any related hot “trends”), 2. Isolating exactly who has that problem, and 3. Learning how they want to research and solve it.
Once you’ve made your targeted folks smarter on the things they care about, then and only then should you be presenting why your product is better, faster, stronger, etc. They’ll listen then because you’ve earned credibility and perhaps more importantly, you’ve helped them AND not interrupted and annoyed them.
Stop interrupting your audience, because they’re not going to take it anymore. There is a better way.