Ad skipping is a generalized behavior every marketer should be conscious of. The river flows downstream, the hot air rises from the ground, and viewers will be avoiding ads. It’s the new normal in Adlandia. Please don’t ignore the majority. But in some cases, people decide to watch, to engage, to be entertained. Why is it so?
Last week, I wrote a mini-successful piece on why people skip ads, successful relative to my young blog standards. An intriguing comment received on LinkedIn challenged me to write about the opposite and interesting behavior: why people DON’T skip ads.
Here are 3 reasons why:
Because you’ve entertained them – advertising always claimed to be a form of entertainment, but this positioning might be more relevant today. We want to run away from the neverending news cycle, the worries and anxiety of the times. We want a quick snack of fun. But we don’t have hours anymore. In the past, we could dedicate a full evening of uninterrupted viewing to a movie. Today we’ve replaced that undivided attention with a split between our streaming and social media platforms. How powerful is the following example of a 6 second ad. There is almost zero need to mention the cause advertising
Because you’ve elicited emotions, preferably positive ones – we love a good story, and examples of good stories delivered in 6 seconds or less exist (anyone thinking about Print or Out of Home here?). In Online Video, a fabulous example I have is from our brand Sheba. Does it not leave a smile on your face?
Because they are not in front of the screen anymore – I know, it’s an inconvenient truth. People don’t necessarily skip by clicking the skip button; they can move their eyes and attention to a different direction: to another device, to another person, to anywhere else than your wonderful creation. It is not an omnipresent behavior, but still a growing one, fueled by our craving to dedicate our energy to multiple screen devices at a time.
As a marketer, you put in the extra hours to develop your cinematic ad, with product close-ups and manicured shots of the ideal consumer. You’ve added all the good stuff excessively: suspense at the beginning, emotional cues to trigger happiness, and an excellent product testimonial at the end glorifying the brand. Sadly, they are still skipping your ad. And they do that as soon as they can.
Why is that? Because:
They don’t have 30 seconds to learn about your brand story; they don’t spend that much time watching their best friend, Insta Story.
For many, advertising is just an annoyance preventing access to the desired cat viral video. Around 80% of viewers skip an ad before it finishes on YouTube.
They don’t like to be tricked into watching a video, so don’t be rude – show your brand early, don’t think they won’t notice this is advertising.
Skipping advertising takes many shapes and forms: from clicking the skip button after 5 seconds on YouTube, from scrolling faster in your Newsfeed or right click on the Insta Story, to opening another tab on your browser, to reloading the web page in the hope that the ad will go away or even focus attention on another device entirely.
I don’t have a solution for fighting this behavior; even more, I don’t think you should fight it; you should understand it and make elegant choices on working with it. Last year, Google enabled three agency folks to share advice on making those smart and common-sense choices. You can find the article linked here.
In the end, as the most famous agency person in the world used to say, “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife” – David Ogilvy. No, it’s not Jon Hamm. Mad Man is not real.
Marketers often fantasize about the hockey stick performance shape for their brand. We expect a tedious, slow-building phase and then the explosion to unmeasured heights. Sad news, it rarely happens in the world of physical goods, but it often occurs where the marginal manufacturing cost is close to zero after producing the first item. It costs you nothing to sell the 100th Kindle file of your book, the 1.000th download of your Mobile App, or the 10.000th download of your podcast. To me, one of the best examples of exponential growth, with huge implications in our advertising bubble, is the rise of ad-blockers.
According to eMarketer, 1/3 of internet users use ad-blocking software, and worse, more than 50% of the 18-30 years old do so (source). Ad-blocking is common in western markets and results from years of cluttering web pages and deploying annoying pop-up ads. China took a more extreme route, and ad-blockers are banned. The implications for brands are notable; what can we do?
First, every marketer should install an ad-blocker. Here is how to install one as a plugin on your browser. It might be counterintuitive to do that when you just agreed to use Internet Display banners on https://www.bbc.com/ for your next campaign. But don’t you want to see the emptiness your audience is seeing precisely? You might then reconsider your decisions.
Talk to your media agency to understand which media partners restrict ad-blocking (like Forbes or BusinessInsider), how you can protect your media budget from ad-blocking behavior, and learn what is safe. I know our agency, Mediacom, is very open to this. Rethink your media delivery and operate in platforms where consumers accept more willingly advertising content.
Rethink your overall communication strategy: bold advertising doesn’t need to be annoying, attention doesn’t need to be grabbed with force. In general, don’t execute something you would yourself be tempted to ad-block. Some say it might be too late to fix online advertising, but at least we can try to stop the decline.
The role of a marketing researcher is to help marketers make smarter decisions through an excellent understanding of consumers behaviors and the market context. It is evident to me that the final business decision-maker is the marketer, but on insight generation, she/he should trust the researcher’s experience and let him drive.
As I think of the most significant breakthrough in the advertising creative measurement research practice at Mars, a single change comes to mind: the moment we stopped giving marketing numbers and forced them to decide based on a four stars scale effectiveness rating. You could call it an intelligent traffic light; at each level of the scale, the next action-to-be-executed was crystal clear, with no room for interpretation. Similar to every organizational change, it wasn’t easy, but the new common language and direct actions were transformational for Mars marketers. A decision to restrict access to details fixed.
Why did it work?
Raw data numbers require a deeper understanding of statistics, of variance, of confidence intervals, of probabilities. Most marketers, with all due respect, are not trained to play with those concepts. As a researcher, keep ambiguity of data interpretation on your side, tell them a crystal clear message they can action.
Traffic lights or a star rating scale are simple constructs present in our day to day life. From car traffic control flow to hotel bookings or online ratings, we got trained to read quality scales without too much training. What matters to a marketer is the correct next action: make it binary, make it simple, make it decisive.
A strong endorsement from the CMO is helping. Convince first a senior marketer that can become your spokesman with things that matter to him. Show how meta-analyses are easier to manage, how internal behaviors could be shifted more easily or how positive competition gets triggered between units using a common simple language.
How can you streamline your research to get to the essence?
We love advertising! And we love advertising that generates emotional reactions. I wrote some time ago about the particular case when using negative emotions in advertising works and received plenty of comments about the role of positive emotions in advertising. This article is making justice to the role of positive emotions.
Negative storylines are not common in advertising; positive stories abound in the world of marketing communication. That’s because in most cases, the role of advertising is to lift-up consumers and elicit positive emotions, preferably linked to the brand. Advertising is one of the last bastions of positivism in today’s overloaded media world. The never-ending news cycle gets rarely interrupted by positivity, except when an ad-break starts. I see a wide gap in the media spectrum for inspiring and happy moments, and advertising should own that gap. It can become the entertainment of the future, however uninspiring that might sound today.
Neuroscience convinced us, at Mars, that positive messages work best. They elicit positive feelings of love, happiness, empathy, pride, belonging, hope, joy, to name a few. We also learned that positive emotions are better flows to encode in memory the brand messages.
A function of advertising is to make the viewer feel slightly better after seeing the ad compared to how she/he felt at the beginning. If the brand message is understood and highlighted at the moment of high emotional load, the ad becomes a success.
What example of uplifting advertising inspires you?