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Digital is not delivering on its promises

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By John Fountain

 

In the world of advertising, the concept of doing what you can to piss-off the public is rarely regarded as a good idea. We live in a world where consumers have millions of places to go and billions of messages to ignore or acknowledge. Thus - to build and retain good will, we usually avoid heavy-handed marketing tactics. The advertising we create and the techniques we use to put it in front of our audience need to be a fair swap for the content people actually want to watch.

When digital came along they told us that the old ‘interruptive’ ways of advertising would soon to be a thing of the past. Those interruptive TV commercials that get in the way of ‘Coronation Street’, the press ad that distracts you from morning paper and the radio spots that cuts little Jimmy Osmond short – in the digital world these would be replaced by respectful and non-intrusive messages that somehow engage us with a brand.

They told us that the new digital space is about engaging in a conversation and improving your value proposition in an authentic way. They told us that it's about allowing consumers to participate and shape your brand based on authentic and rewarding one-to-one interactions.

In short, they told us that digital would turn the traditional marketing paradigm on its head.

Well tell me if I’m wrong here. But when I go to watch a movie on YouTube there’s now an advert that’s interrupting my viewing experience. When I‘m doing some online research at work, an ad banner appears and hides the text. When I open my personal email on my gmail account – there’s a bunch of small ads running inside. And when I’m on Facebook, I see sponsored message after sponsored message after sponsored message.

So much for the great non-interruptive digital experience that we were promised. As John Lydon once said, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been taken for a ride?”

And it’s not just me that’s pissed off. Right now some senior digital people are getting very annoyed indeed. A few months back Google big cheese Bradley Horowitz said of Facebook, "When I'm having a conversation with my daughter, if a man with a sandwich board came and ran between us and danced around, that's a bad experience," Horowitz says. "It interrupts my connection to my daughter. And yet that's the way that many of the social networks are monetising. They're basically injecting the monetisation agenda into the least appropriate, least useful, most intimate moments when I'm trying to look another human in the eyes and create a connection of the heart… We don't have to do that."

Unfortunately a digital world where advertisers are focused on interrupting every online moment seems to be looming large.

 

John Fountain

@fountainjohn

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