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Adtech has a personality problem: Why marketers shouldn’t underestimate their audience

By Chris Tee, UK commercial director

Appetite Creative


The Drum Network article

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November 7, 2019 | 6 min read

This morning, I was taking a warm shower. While doing so, I was listening to a Youtube playlist and trying to forget that, just a few minutes ago, I was in the comfort of my bed, dreaming of a world in which I was floating on clouds and had no work. I was interrupted by an obnoxious and boisterous alarm screaming in my ear. It made me jump, and it made me sad. Just like the five stages of grief, I started in shock and denial - “no way is it morning already” - the anger at the noise, then a sigh of depression before the bargaining phase kicked in and I hit snooze. Finally, acceptance, I got out of bed. A shower will help.

person typing on laptop

Appetite Creative cite the annoyance of banner ads and morning alarm clocks as a warning for marketers to get savvier. / Unsplash

Morning playlist, boom, Lionel Ritchie (I am a secret megafan), and I was once again taken away from the reality of a cold, wet morning, and Lionel’s charm consumed me. Alas again, my bliss was interrupted, and this time, it was ads. Louder than the music I was listening to and just as annoying as that grievous alarm. Sure, I can skip the ad, but my phone is over there, and I have soap in my eyes. Shower ruined.

The difference between the two is that I need the alarm. My body has a habit of getting too comfortable, and it needs reminding that morning has arrived. My ears, however, do not need to be told that I could avoid arthritis with this new super pill just because I looked up the spelling of the word yesterday.

Adtech has developed a personality problem, and consumers have a hate-hate relationship with advertising, with most finding ads to be intrusive and creepy. As an industry, we need to be more human and start thinking about the consumer and their needs. Ads need to stop being 2D and be immersive and adaptive for each channel. Let’s stop the wave of unsatisfactory, unfitting, and uncomfortable and deliver unbelievable experience creative!

Bad ads are like needy stalkers. Bothering us at inappropriate times and knowing too much and poking their heads around our shower curtains trying to sell us a new project management tool.

Despite this, we cannot deny that when used correctly, creatively, and thoughtfully, digital marketing works wonders. Look at Amazon; they’ve built their entire marketing campaign around digital and have done very well for it.

How they do it is their own secret recipe, but there are certainly some things that we should all be trying to avoid.

We have to stop trying to force people into something. Today’s Homo sapien hates being told what to do. We are less tolerant now than we ever have been of being pushed around. Or at least we like to think we are. The point is, advertisers need to make sure that the user feels like they have control. Forcing the modern human into doing something is not only lousy advertising, but it is also detrimental and can, at times, reach the point of becoming immoral. Get yourself an unskippable ad on Facebook, and you’ll have a billion views an hour, but each view might be as loathed as that alarm clock in the morning.

We have to be very careful that we don’t underestimate our audience. Banner blindness is a real thing. Some shady corners of the advertising world survive by selling nothing more than clicks. They are sneaky and creepy and use trickery to get there. They offer a click to close button that redirects, opens a new tab, or even worse the heinous pop-under. And people have, of course, become wise to this.

We wrote some time ago about being less of a pain and more of a convenience. We don’t want to scream in people’s ears about a product that they may desire, or one that we “heard” they might have googled. We want to build them their own personal, digital high street, and let them walk around freely.

We are in danger of attaching a stigma to the very word “Ad,” we need to be more creative to avoid it. We need to think outside the box, we need to offer more experiential ads, and we need to be more subtle. Generation Z will and has every right to reject anything else.

We can use data to improve the digital marketing world and improve the online experience of millions of people. But we have to put the work in and be on the consumer’s side. We need to offer an experience, offer a hand, and offer advice. But no more than that. If the consumer wishes to look up and listen, and take our hands, then we need to be prepared with an amazingly enjoyable experience to greet them with. If the user wishes to close the ad, we must not try and convince them otherwise, a smile and a nod in the shape of an honest close option is what we give.

Honesty, transparency, fantastic service, and experiences. Whoever can do those things the best will win.

Chris Tee, UK commercial director at Appetite Creative.


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