Give Them Ads They've Asked to See
One of the great early promises of the Internet was the ability to deliver only the ads that users wanted to see. However, as advertisers soon discovered, in most cases, no one except those responsible for the ads (and maybe their families) has any desire to watch the ads.
Up until this point, advertisers tried to follow the AIDA model. Get their Attention, evoke their Interest, foster Desire, and elicit Action. (Sometimes I refer to it as IAIDA - with the first I being Interruption).
Initially, getting the attention of Web users was incredibly difficult, for they normally came to the Web trying to find or accomplish something. Before broadband became widespread and YouTube and MySpace became two of the most popular entertainment and social hubs, the Web was almost exclusively a tool, and the interruption model to which advertisers were accustomed just got in the way of users accomplishing their goals.
Too much of it, and people started calling for tools that would help them block the ads, and eventually even the browser software developers even helped them block worst cases of interruption abuse.
Cutting Corners the Right Way
Google's emergence as the most popular (and an exceptionally effective) search engine changed the way companies looked at advertising.
AdWords allowed companies to essentially skip the hardest parts of A, I and D in the AIDA model because the user already expressed an interest in a topic (the search terms). If a company had something that may be of use to someone looking for certain search terms, they would bid for clearly-marked space in the search engine results page (SERP).
The advertiser paid nothing unless the user clicked on the ad. This action-based fee created a natural incentive for profit-seeking companies to choose their search terms wisely and to align their promises with the experiences they offered.
The need to get attention amidst all of the other results on the page wasn't entirely eliminated. Agencies spend a good deal of thought trying to optimize their advertising by weeding out the less effective word-buys, in terms of conversion ratios.
Unfortunately, this particular type of permission asset has found its legs with only Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Even though the ads are clearly marked, if they were done right, the ads become the content the users are looking for anyway.
In effect, the user asked for the ads they were shown, though to him it isn't an ad, but a possible solution to the problem that caused him to type in the search terms in the first place.
The Times They Are a'Changin'
However, there are signs that agencies, advertisers, and platform hosts are trying to make use of the same principle that has made SEM so effective.
- At Ad:Tech in San Francisco this year, one keynote speaker suggested giving users at Hulu.com the option to choose which types of ads they would watch. (Hulu, by the way, is already ahead of the curve as far as TV's dilemma is concerned).
- Supertargeted television advertising, called "pod-busting," is becoming more prevalent, and we may actually see a reduction in television commercials as a result.
- DVR-pioneer TiVo is trying to facilitate commerce through its interface. While the jury is out on this one, it's apparent to me that the intent, at least, is to maintain free programming while keeping the viewer in control of the advertising he sees. (Note: TiVo is a client).
Still, it's a challenging market. It's new ground, and a lot of companies refuse to make the leap. After all, not all products and services will engender the same affection that will motivate them to actually ask to see an ad.
Many of them shouldn't even try.
Proctor & Gamble would have to work very hard to convince me that I needed to request to see a commercial for Tide. Therefore, they have to be prepared to approach me and people like me a bit differently. - Cam Beck
See part 1: Give Them Ads You Want Them To See