Should We Rate Ads Or Just Watch Them?… Or Neither

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We have been voting with our eyeballs.

It’s plain and simple. Impressions, GRPs and mix in some repetition. It turns out that human beings are simple beings. Show them something, catch their attention, rinse and repeat and you will get them to take action. They will remember your message, think about your message (mostly subconsciously) and – if all goes as planned – when they’re shopping, they will buy from you. This model was (and continues to be) the driving force behind this massive juggernaut that we call the advertising industry. Make no mistake about it, while social media did usher in an opportunity for brands to engage in conversations with their consumers and provide them with digital products and services to better (and more deeply) connect, it has not gone as hoped (or predicted by people like me). Take a look at Facebook‘s most recent reporting, and you will see one thing: big numbers and the kind of dollars that advertisers like to get behind, when they know that a mass audience is gathered, connected and paying attention in one, specific, channel.

The increasingly ad-free future that we’re not seeing. 

With that, the tools, channels, platforms, products and services are available for brands to tinker with. And, they are. Look at what Oreo did over the holiday season with their Oreo Colorfilled product launch. With over forty million “likes” on Facebook (and a wider advertising net to cast), the company launched a online package customization platform, that enabled consumers to design their own Oreo package, and have it shipped to a friend or family member for the holiday season. Backed by Shopify‘s technology, this proved to be a fascinating test to see if consumers could be enticed online, take the time to customize and buy from Mondelez (Oreo’s parent company) directly (circumventing their traditional distribution of product to retailers). By all accounts, the results have been powerful. Mondelez recently stated that they plan to increase their direct-to-consumer digital sales tenfold by 2020 (check out the DigiDay piece, How Mondel?z plans to increase its e-commerce sales tenfold by 2020). Netflix and other streaming services are offering content for a fee, and nixing the ideas of traditional advertising as we have known it to date. It does seem like the future of video is a subscription model that is fee-supported. Does TV advertising then die on the vine? 

Still, the Super Bowl is just around the corner, and everyone is buzzing about what the ads are going to be like. 

Nothing new here. Super Bowl ads now create more buzz, PR and online chatter than the actual live airing of the brand messages. These ads live on within YouTube and the views, comments and likes are measured, watched and dissected as much as the ratings of the actual football game. Many of us believe that mobile is going to dwarf everything we thought we knew about the Internet. Still, the advertising models on these smartphones are even more questionable. Takeovers, display ads and more simply don’t function well on these platforms. Facebook has been dominating because their ad formats mimic their feed, and can be grazed with the flicking of the thumb without interrupting the general experience. Most would admit that this is still not the ideal way for a brand to get a message to a consumer. Don’t believe me, take a look at how a “view” is counted on Facebook. 

Forget what’s great about the Super Bowl ads and think about this…

Just because the advertising model has worked for the past century (plus), is no indication that this is where success will be found in the future. Especially, if this future is about mobile screens of all shapes and sizes, and connected devices that reside on our wrists, in front of our eyes or whatever else is coming next. What if the advertising industry became more transparent? What if we allowed consumers to rate the ads that are in front in them? It’s not a new idea. Still, it is an idea that always get floated to the media at this time of year, because we’re all going to be voting on just how good those Super Bowl ads performed. The marketing nerds (like me), will spend time watching, re-watching, analyzing, rating and debating who took the top spot, and what worked best. The average consumer? Do you really believe that they’re going to be more engaged with ads? They will now watch them and rate them, and the output is that brands will create more relevant ads? It feels even more off base as things become increasingly more about mobile.

Don’t get trapped in flawed thinking.

Passively watching ads while you’re watching the big game, is not the same as the mobile experience. This is the challenge. We can’t think of advertising as one dimensional. It’s not working. It’s not working for brand, agencies and – most importantly – the consumer. If you’re interested in ads, it’s important to know the power of a great story that captures someone’s attention. If you’re interested in the future of advertising, it’s important to start thinking about what advertising and the future of media looks like, when it’s becoming increasingly delivered on a smartphone. We are starting to vote with our fingers, and not our eyes. Plus, if most consumers could care less about watching ads, the added effort of rating them seems like a long stretch. We have to better define a model of advertising that looks, feels and acts in a much different way, if this industry is to thrive in the coming decade. How do we compliment an experience instead of interrupt it? 

Don’t kid yourself, an ad on TV and an ad on your smartphone are not one and the same thing.