I got a lot of feedback from my last post about advertising practices on Podcasts, which you can read here. After some more thinking about the topic, I realized the real issue, almost regardless of media type, is one of scheduled inconvenience versus surprise inconvenience.
What do I mean by that? I mean that something that is unpleasant or less-than-desirable is more tolerable when you have already mentally allotted time for it. Some examples:
- A car repair. Knowing your car needs to get service, and scheduling that service, is far less of an inconvenience mentally than your car unexpectedly breaking down and needing a tow and repair, even if the latter is less expensive than the former. In the case of a scheduled repair, you had already braced yourself for the time, expense, and hassle of getting to that appointment and picking your car up later. Your car breaking down, forcing the repair on you, is a surprise, and is out of whack with your expectations. The result? So much more stress and unhappiness.
- Traffic . There are times when we can almost always count on traffic being there — rush hour, afternoons during weekends, the Sunday of a holiday weekend — no surprise that there are other people on the road. You know this going in, and while the drive might be miserable, you already factored it into your trip and your expectations for the experience. However, there are times when you don’t expect traffic — very early in the morning on a weekend, or very late at night, when usually traffic is very light…. and then BANG! — someone screws it up for everyone, and traffic is a mess. Those are probably the most stressful kinds of interruptions, because they were not planned for, your schedule gets thrown off, and what was supposed to be a fairly smooth, quick trip, is now that much longer. Those are minutes of your life that you will not get back.
My thought is that now most things fall into the “planned/unplanned” category now that humanity has shifted into the information age. We have expectations set that we will be able to control our consumption of information, food, resources, art, etc. on our schedule. A football game is too long to watch? DVR it and skip the commercial breaks (and there goes that media spend on old-sytle ad slots down the drain). Love talk radio? Download a podcast, or better yet, an audio book…. or even your favorite show, right to your iPhone/iPad/Smartphone, etc.
The old commercial format, the commercial break, whether it is visual or auditory (e.g. a live read on a podcast that interrupts a conversation) is on the old model, the model where the consumer didn’t have a choice. We don’t live in that world anymore, and I am increasingly convinced that the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. Content providers and advertisers are going to have to think of new ways to get their marketing/branding message out, because to consumers like me, a commercial break, or a live read ad spot in the middle of content, is about as jarring as a car breakdown or a sudden traffic accident. We’re so angry at the interruption, we can’t focus on the message, and that advertiser does not get results for their spend.
I would categorize these as old-style Interruptions:
- Commercial breaks
- Pledge drives that cut short content (looking at you, NPR affiliates — shame on you for cutting shows short to beg for more money — instead, you lost me as a listener vs. your podcasts)
- Prerolls without session capping
- Online Banners that expand or play audio without user initiation
So what’s left? PLENTY! In fact, there are a wide range of ads, many that are rich media or beyond the norm, that consumers accept and will accomodate in this era of new media:
- Prerolls with session capping and/or a skip button (a la YouTube)
- In-show or in-game sponsorship — e.g. the main character just happens to be drinking a Coke/Pepsi/Other, or the product is featured in other subtle ways (like a billboard in the backgroun)
- The web version of the above — skin takeovers. They are commonly accepted as high-impact, low-nuisance ad spots that not only send out a dominating marketing message, but are actually aesthetically pleasing in some cases. Look for more of these kind of paid sponsorship placements to eventually become a large portion of the inventory, and have behavioral targeting. You could cap on a per-session basis, and get a great tangible and intangible result.
- Sponsorship logos and positions — most obvious during sports events, but applicable to other kinds of programming as well
- Lumping commercials into long segments to leave other content segments completely commercial-free. As I mentioned in the last post, Howard Stern and Joe Rogan do this, as do other folks. It works pretty well for both.
- Informal segments where nothing is sacred — Rogan is especially good at this. Some of what he says about his products are backhanded compliments, but if anything, this seems to reduce audience resistance to the product, and allows him to keep credibility. By keeping it in tune with the general tone of the show, these segments really just end up being the show itself, rather than something the user skips in order to get to the “real show.”
- Banner Ads and other static sponsorships — most web users accept that there will be advertising on the sites they use. As long as it is not interfering with their ability to enjoy site content, they really don’t mind it, and behavioral targeting makes banners even more applicable to the individual user. Subtle is better.
- Rich media ads that require user initiation — Sometimes rich media ads really are what the consumer wants. Movie trailers, product demos, interactive games — as long as the user had a chance to opt in, rather than have it forced on them, these ads will meet with a receptive audience.