I spent some rare time watching TV last night. I hardly ever watch anything when it airs. The few shows that I do occasionally watch I tune into on Hulu after the fact. My TV set is pretty much reserved for DVDs and VHS (yes, I still have a VHS player). So last night watching NCIS with a friend, suddenly I was confronted with something I hardly ever see: an ad that I HAD to sit through. It was for a set of shoes that you put soap in and they scrub your feet clean. Needless to say, it had me squirming in my seat, wishing for a skip button or at the very least another browser tab to switch to.
Of course, I never used to have such strong reactions to TV commercials. I’d just take them in stride and sit through them (or go grab a Coke) without thinking much about it. But the internet has changed that. Interruption-based advertising methods (like commercials on TV or pop-up ads on your computer) rely on a captive audience to force across a sales pitch. Because of this, they’re far less effective online, where viewers get to choose what they watch. Most of us have ad blocking software installed on our computers. Any types of ads these don’t catch we either ignore as we multitask or turn off manually.
On top of that, the subconscious associations (cool images) and overt attempts at humor such ads tend to employ typically fail to communicate the actual meaning and value of an idea. I’m sure I have seen numerous ads lately. But do I remember what any of them were for? If I do, have they actually changed my thinking about the product or service? These ads go in one ear and out the other with no lasting impact.
The most effective communication in an interconnected, digital world is fast, fun and full of meaning. If you don’t get your message across quickly, no one will bother to hear you out. If it’s not fun, even if someone manages to listen to the entire thing (which they probably won’t), they won’t remember it and certainly won’t pass it along to their networks. And if it’s not full of meaning, even if they pass it along, it will be a momentary thing—a burp in the internet ether. As marketers, fast, fun and meaningful must become our new imperatives, with meaningful at the core of our message and fast and fun buying us a point of entry.