Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When Intrusion Is Welcome

On Monday a really splashy Mustang ad transformed the home page of Yahoo in a way that I found pretty delightful. And yet it broke so many of the rules that we believe are sacrosanct in an era of consumer control:

·        I definitely didn’t ask for it. Didn’t want to hear from Mustang
·        It was intrusive, moving page content below the fold as the experience manifested.
·        It prevented me from doing what I came to do for the duration of the video play
·        Its content wasn’t driven by huge amounts of highly personal targeting data

And yet I loved it.

Big. Beautiful. Surprising. Cinematic. Very Mustang.

The lesson here isn’t that it’s great to interrupt the browsing habits of the target. At least not necessarily. No, it’s about the importance of creativity as a means of pleasing consumers. And a refutation of the idea should solicit the rational communication preferences of consumers before we dare put a message into their world.

I’ve always had difficulty with the idea of consumer control. Frankly, I think that if the consumer is entirely in control, than we marketers aren’t doing our jobs. Personally I have no issue with “intrusion” given that marketer messages pay for having access to the entirety of the web for free.

But what HAS changed is the need for us to make outstanding creative consistently. Which brings to mind another topic, and that is the generally dreadful state of digital creative. Not executionally, but conceptually. There are thousands of executionally- cool units running on any given day, but what virtually all lack is an idea on which everything is built. The saddest situation is when a brand has a great offline campaign idea, but the online execution makes little of it – indeed feels stapled on to the rest of the plan.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the growth in digital spend is that it is slowly driving companies to expect more from online ads than red blinking buttons and a good CTR. I know it’s been said a million times, but digital gives us such a remarkable opportunity to develop experiences that help people feel what they can only imagine feeling with a TV ad.
So how do we get great creative to be the norm in digital? I think it is helpful for us to start with five “pre-requisites.”

1.      Single-minded message. Most digital ads shoehorn everything possible into the unit. In trying to get people to remember everything, we ensure that they remember nothing.

2.      Pictures really really matter. In part because we rely so heavily on stock in digital, not enough attention is paid to ensuring that what we depict in digital creative is incredibly powerful and evocative. In my view we worry too much about the words and not enough about the pictures online.

3.      Show them why is matters. We are all inundated with thousands of messages every day. Very few make it past our various filters. The ones that do tend to have reall or special significance to us – at that particular moment or in the manner in which we live our lives.

4.      Make the collection of executions cohesive. We use the word “campaign” in digital to mean a bundle of executions launched at the same time. But such a grouping can and often does have no unifying characteristics across messages. Creating a central idea and executional style is important. This unifying approach needn’t be a lockstep set of characteristics that ensures very high executional cohesiveness. Rather, it’s more about ensuring that the viewer recognizes the execution as part of your larger story.

5.      Get them interacting. Why go to the trouble of building digital creative if you don’t enable people to futz with the units? While digital can also be a great reach and frequency vehicle, it’s true power is in taking these core media concepts and wrapping them in an interactive whole.

Those five tips aren’t enough to make online ads magically improve. But they are essential to ensuring that delivering great creative is possible.

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