When has interrupting someone and distracting them ever been a good way of getting them to do something that you want them to do?

Time

We never seem to have enough of it. Which makes it all the more frustrating when annoying things interrupt you and prevent you from achieving whatever it was that you were attempting to do in the small window of time that you’ve allocated to doing it.

Things get in the way of other, more important things, all the time.

Things get in the way of other, more important things, all the time.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having a full time job, children, a long commute, not enough sleep, and lots and lots of ‘life admin’ things which get in the way of what I like doing – spending time with my family and relaxing.

The pressure on my weekly 168 hours means that I usually sacrifice sleep, or pleasure when things just need to get done. Even when I’m very organised, and my wife and I have a plan, interruptions can derail even the most clearly and logically thought out endeavour. It’s highly frustrating when banal, complex, albeit necessary interruptions happen.

But where am I going with this self-indulgent exploration of how I should have had done things differently to ensure that I have more free time, and how is it relevant to marketing?

Time is also very often, in the wrong place. We have plenty of it, but just the wrong type and in the wrong location. If you work full time, the time when you’re most able to talk to people about things is probably after 6pm, which coincidentally is the time that most businesses shut.

This is where the internet has revolutionised the way in which we buy, research, consume, products and services. But why are so many companies embracing the opportunity that the internet provides, and doing it so badly? When I’m trying to research something on the internet, often it seems that publishers or advertisers are almost trying to interrupt me, or distract me from what it is I’m trying to do.  

We live in an era where consumers have more control than ever over the types of advertising messages they see (and want to see). We can fast forward TV ads, we can pay a premium for TV shows to ensure that they’re ad-free (Netflix etc) we no longer need (or want?) junk mail leaflets, we can find what we’re looking for at the tip of our fingers (72% of us have a Smartphonehttp://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/7-10-people-uk-now-own-smartphone/). Advertising should always be convenient for us, or it will become (more?) ineffectual.

So why are many advertisers getting it so wrong? The list of things which devalue our industry and drag it into the gutter is long: Intrusive mobile ads (the Ad Contrarian covers this better than I)http://adcontrarian.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/apple-and-interruption-factory.html ;  so many display ads and tracking pixels that it takes 30 seconds for websites to load; not fully optimised local search & social media results; interstitials; ‘trick’ creative which hide the ‘click to close’ X forcing accidental clicks; Pre-roll videos. The publishers don’t seem to care what this does to the quality of the editorial, or user experience, as long as advertisers keep buying their impressions.  

Except it’s not advertisers that are buying those specific ad placements on that specific site. It’s supply side platforms, ad exchanges, ad networks etc.  Advertisers are buying ‘targeted clicks or impressions’, but most don’t know where they’re coming from. Most probably don’t care, or are blissfully ignorant as long as their CTR achieves better than industry standard (whatever irrelevant and made up number that happens to be this month).

This has huge additional ramifications for the online publishing industry, which I’m not going to get into here – principally because @tomfgoodwin covers it even better in this article:http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/259061/the-death-of-the-news-brand.html

Online advertising often gets in the way of the reason I’m online in the first place.  Oh, the irony of a website trying to redirect me (with an intrusive pop-up or ‘mid-stitial’, mid-article to another part of their own website, using a third party technology such as Outbrain or Taboola, and paying for the privilege? I’m already on your website reading your content and viewing your advertising. What more do you want from me?  Online advertising has eaten itself. A lot of websites are just vehicles to move you onto another site, or to force you to click (by deliberately building the site in such a way that it’s impossible not to click), just so they can sell that ad space to advertisers. But that sort of ad-space by definition is worthless. Interestingly, some websites which started as clickbait (37 Tinder fails you just have to see!) are now branching out into ‘proper’ journalism, so it will be interesting to see how this changes their monetisation model in the future.

No, I don’t want to download ‘Clash of Clans’. If your data is telling you that I might want to, you need to recheck it..

No, I don’t want to download ‘Clash of Clans’. If your data is telling you that I might want to, you need to recheck it..

No company ever built success by holding their potential customers to ransom and forcing them to ‘consume’ their marketing material. It’s alienating the very audience it was destined to ‘capture’. 20% of Americans use an in-browser ad blocker (http://blog.pagefair.com/2015/ad-blocking-report/). Apple’s iOS 9 update will allow developers to create apps which block ads on mobiles, including in-app ads.

So how do advertisers construct campaigns which engage their target audience, without alienating them in a race to the bottom of the barrel of cheap CPCs? We at TMP Magnet don’t have the magic bullet formula – it’s not a one size fits all industry (thankfully), but we do have some ideology which we try to apply to all of our (bespoke) planning processes for clients:

  • Creativity is key. People have a romantic notion of advertising because of the Mad Men renaissance and the glamour of the 1960s-1980s. People still hail the Smash Martians, the Hamlet Cigars ads and Leonard Rossiter’s camp Campari cameos as examples of the best creative advertising of all time. Of course there are modern examples too – Guinness, Honda, Nike etc, but arguably the race to exploit the advantages of the internet has come at the detriment of creativity. Too many agencies take short cuts – building banner ads by sticking a logo on a picture and adding some copy from their PPC campaign, and pretending that it’s okay because the A/B test in the adserving platform will determine which is ‘best’. Perhaps ‘least worst’ is more appropriate. The answer is simple. Make compelling creative that people actually want to watch/read/click on/share.
  • Buy quality over quantity. ‘The Internet’ is a big place. We will never run out of ad impressions. The supply being so much greater than the demand means that it’s very possible to buy very, very cheap ad inventory. There’s an argument that this gives you ‘reach’ and ‘awareness’, but what’s the point if you’re serving ads on websites which are irrelevant to your target audience, or those in which your predominant audience is robots? It may cost more to buy ‘premium’ inventory, but if you’re more likely to strike a chord with someone, then it’s a worthwhile investment. Balance is key, of course.
  • Know your audience. Don’t try and target ‘Male ABC1s, 35-54’. We’re not all the same. I refer you to my most recent blog for more on this.
  • Every action has a reaction. Think about what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t just dump someone on a landing page which is in no way representative of the creative message that led them to click. If you have a specific offer or promotion, make sure they can access it easily. Build your site in such a way, that if you must make them login or create an account, that they will easily return to their desired landing page afterwards. If you want them to click, share, download, like, follow, buy etc, then create mechanics which allow this.
  • Track, analyse, optimise, repeat. HR people talking about ‘Continuous Development’. Planners and buyers should know what data they’re getting, how to analyse it, and what recommendations to make. Do this regularly. The internet has given us more control than ever to change things mid-campaign, even on a daily basis. Don’t neglect your campaigns.

It’ll be interesting to see how advances such as ad-blocking change the way in which advertisers behave. Hopefully it’ll make them take stock of the degradation of the sector that’s been taking place. It may mean more ‘branded content’, or more pay walls, which may or may not be a good thing. Either way, advertisers need to get smarter to ensure that they don’t alienate or miss out on their target audiences.