Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Advertisers Should Embrace Skippable Ads


With the news that YouTube is bringing its skippable ads function to mobile, the question over lunch yesterday turned to skippable ads themselves.  Are they good for advertisers?

Or, not?

My lunch partner was an advertiser.  Big budget commercials.  He, not surprisingly, was on the side that skippable ads would kill the ad business.

I, believing that most advertisers need a digital mindchange about online advertising, thought I’d try to change his.

A second round of drinks was ordered and the discussion continued.

His argument was simple.  People don’t like advertising.  So if given the chance to skip ads, they will.

My counter was this.  Are people skipping the advertising?  Or, are they skipping the interruption the advertising causes?  

It’s a little akin to something that Howard Gossage, an advertising legend from San Francisco, is famous for saying.

“People don’t read advertising.  They read what interests them.  And sometimes it’s an ad.”

To paraphrase – People don’t skip commercials.  They skip interruptions.  And sometimes it’s a commercial.  (Of course, in this case, it’s always a commercial.)

Gossage’s quote tells people that advertising needs to be interesting if people are going to spend any time with it.  This is true whether it’s a print ad or a commercial.

But even if it’s interesting, if it intrudes, it’s not going to be well received.

My lunch partner was intrigued.  “Tell me more about this Gossage fellow.”

I think Gossage would have appreciated skippable ads.  After all, he always believed that advertising wasn’t a right, but a privilege.

Which means we have no right interrupting what people are watching.  If you interrupt, you deserve to be skipped.

Gossage never worked in TV.  His medium was mostly print.  His advertising never looked like anyone else’s advertising.  

Why?  

Knowing that people didn’t read advertising just because it was advertising, he saw no reason to make what he did look, sound or feel like advertising.  Where was the benefit in doing that?

If a brand started to make commercials to run online that didn’t look, sound or feel like  commercials, perhaps people would be curious.

And, if they’re curious, perhaps they’d opt-in to watch on their own accord.  They do have the control to do that online.

In other words, the brand wouldn’t have to rudely interrupt what consumers are watching to get their attention.  The creative itself would do that.

“Bold thought,” said my lunch partner.  “So as an advertiser, I should make commercials that don’t look like commercials and embrace skippable ads?”

“Of course,” I said.  “Because then your commercials would be watched and your competitors’ would be skipped.  In a nutshell, you’d build market share.”

“Makes sense,” he said.  “But it will never happen.”

“I know,” I said, as we ordered one final round.

“I know.”

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