Brands Need To Be More Interesting Or Else

Mark Di SommaNovember 5, 20154 min

Marketers love what they do and with good reason. It’s exciting, stimulating and inspiring to work on a great brand. But the rise of ad-blockers proves something no-one wants to admit. Brands are failing to maintain interest. Consumers want out of the messaging. Literally.

Mark Ritson called this some time back “Never before has marketing been so unlimited in the scope and scale of clutter that it can bake into its digital messages. Never before has the consumer had access to such immediate and effective filtering tools. The stage is set for a brand new match in a tournament as old as marketing itself: advertisers versus avoiders.”

You know something is seriously bothering the industry when it makes its way onto the agenda of a significant conference like the ANA. But while everyone has been happy to talk about all the technical aspects that have provoked ad-blocking adoption, such as loading, privacy, tracking, clutter and repetition, few are prepared to talk about the real elephant in the room. Consumers are bored and insulted by what’s being served up to them, and how.

Who can blame them? Think about your own experiences. Most of the stuff that is being front-ended onto device views is flat, stupid or irrelevant. It’s not just failing because it’s there. It’s failing because it’s not what consumers want to look at, it’s distracting from the experience that consumers want to have, and it’s dismally dull compared to the content that users themselves are sourcing and making.

And the reason for that I suspect is because of course marketers and agencies are still trying to make placements. They are still treating digital channels as media channels, and not as entertainment channels in the very broadest interpretation of that idea. So they haven’t thought through, to any level of depth, how to truly integrate brands onto digital platforms in ways that are enjoyable and fascinating. They’re still trying to impose.

In an article on this very topic recently, Nigel Hollis quoted a study from AdReaction that showed people are most receptive to video ads that are based on their interests (41 percent receptive) or preferred brands (40 percent receptive) and they are most negative about video that reaches them that they don’t control. Brand owners it seems have forgotten Seth Godin’s permission marketing lesson.

Which begs the acceptance question that every decision-maker should pose about the stuff they are briefing in, overseeing and then being asked to approve: If you hadn’t made it, would you want to watch it?

And that’s important because, for all the talk about what something does or doesn’t offer, brands really only have one advantage over unbranded producers. They must be interesting to consumers in ways that supersede functionality so that they can align their name to that. If you’re not interesting, you’re a commodity in the making. And no amount of presence in the form of media spend changes that one iota. So, the message to marketers, brands, agencies and publishers couldn’t be clearer. Be more interesting. Rethink the noise, because right now the experience isn’t working for anyone. Ad-blockers are not the problem. Ad-blockers are an expression of the frustration.

Brand owners need to hear three things that everyone’s trying to shut their ears to. First of all, by not going all out to be interesting, you’re running down your own brands on the very media that you hope is taking your brands to the world. The work isn’t working. Secondly, while content may be free, interesting is increasingly expensive. It takes money and time and enormous effort to conceive and produce ideas that capture people’s imaginations. Thirdly, the whole approach to participating creatively as a brand in the digital media arena needs reworking not just revising. Booking isn’t looking. And without looking, you’re paying an awful lot to be increasingly ignored.

None of this will change until the people who control the money do two things: release more money; and at the same time insist that the money work harder. Something to think about as we all head into budget season.

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