Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

People don’t go to the cinema for the previews, and they don’t watch their favourite show for the ads. Why, then, do marketers expect them to watch an ad before watching their favourite YouTuber, or engage with a shampoo brand in the middle of their Instagram feed of selfies and vacation pictures? Why should they be forced to sit through advertising just so they can continue playing their mobile game for free?

Traditional advertising forces a message on the individual by interrupting the thing that they actually came there for.

But thanks to digitalisation, consumers no longer have to watch, listen or read an ad, and they’re not. They’re tuning out and skipping past. To combat this, marketers need to start considering the kinds of experiences people are trying to get to when they skip past the ads.

Be it videos, magazines, or games, marketers need to look at what people are engaging with and determine how to give it to them, harnessing the power of voluntary engagement. A good starting point is moving beyond the mindset of “What’s in it for us? What actionable item are we trying to achieve?”, and think more about “What’s in it for them? What does the customer need in order to have their attention captured?”

The entertainment industry understands this idea of capturing and holding your attention – it’s the ability to hit “next episode” on Netflix to keep watching a series marathon. It’s also the reason the Super Bowl half-time show is a multimillion-dollar production. An engaged audience is the best audience for entertainers and marketers alike.

Marketing content should be relevant and applicable to what the consumer is interested in.  Take sponsored YouTube content, for example. In a video on DIY interior design, a sponsored message for a relevant product integrated into the video itself adds value to the viewer’s experience, as it’s directly related to what they came here to see. This is far more valuable to the viewer, and is more engaging, than the same product being tacked on as an ad at the beginning of the video.

Getting even more creative, brands should experiment with developing games that deliver marketing messages. For the production and placement cost of one 30-second ad, brands can deliver hours of engaging, educational content that drives brand value.  Critically, this engagement is voluntary, creating a much higher value relationship. 

As marketing messages compete in increasingly congested and expensive channels, what we know is that voluntary engagement is key – whether it’s the choice of what show to watch on which streaming platform, or people opting out of certain digital content because of the barrage of ads and other interruptions. Consumers are no longer captive to marketing content. Their time and attention matter to them, and brands should use that time wisely.

Glenn Gillis is the co-founder and CEO of Sea Monster, a leading animation, gaming and augmented-reality company.

The big take-out:

Consumers are no longer captive to marketing content, which means that brands need to get them to opt in to brand messaging voluntarily with content that is relevant and applicable.

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