The simple banner ad has created a lot of success online. But also a lot of misery. Today, most users avoid banner ads, pre-rolls and other passive display media as the plague. Ad-blockers are becoming increasingly more popular, even Apple are opening up for ad-block features in Safari on iOS 9. Ad skipping (TrueView) has been available on YouTube for 5 years. Still, many advertisers continue to use passive display as a mainstay in their online campaigns. It is easy to buy, easy to produce, and buying CPC makes it low risk. But there are a lot more effective alternatives out there and they work in both mobile and traditional web environments. Let’s look at five of them.
1. Start with engagement. This one should be on top of everyone’s list. Don’t worry about how many people see your advertising, focus on how many actually engage with your message and your brand. Figure out how to involve the audience in the (digital) activities. Make their needs the centre of attention, rather than stressing with the branding. Obviously, the communication needs to be relevant to the audience and the brand, but there is no need to put the logo everywhere or repeat a product over and over again – the audience is smarter than you think. Building engagement is always a question of understanding the audience. It is about listening, taking an interest and relating to them in a positive and engaging way. People will only put their social currency on the line if they themselves enjoyed or believed in the activity. I mean, who would share something boring? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
2. Turn passive to active. Just because most advertisers are being passive with their display ads, it doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. By creating intriguing interactive banner ads, it is still possible to involve the audience. It’s not easy, for sure, but by being contextual, relevant, interesting, funny and/or appealing to the audience’s curiosity, it is still possible to build an online display presence that makes people enjoy, engage and click. The same goes for pre-rolls. There are ways of making the most of the 5 seconds (like in the highly awarded Geico unskippable ads). You can also create an interactive experience, using annotations. The point is to find something the audience finds interesting, mesmerising, funny, sad or brings out any other human emotion. By using activation as a strategy in display advertising, it is still possible to create low cost communication that actually works.
3. Be useful. Providing utility for your audience is one of the most effective ways of building a long-term relationship. Advertising has become a value exchange, where brands provide something in return for the audience to engage with them. This is not a bad thing, in fact it allows you to interact with the people who are most likely to jump on your offer. But it has to be done in a way that gets you remembered, not just for the next 15 seconds, but for a long time. Utilities, whether they are online, in-app or analogue, help you connect with your audience by solving one of their challenges. It could be a big challenge that you solve once and for all, an ongoing challenge that you alleviate on a daily basis – or maybe it’s something they haven’t really though about, but still find useful. This must all be closely connected to your brand and industry.
4. Entertain them. No one is getting any points for saying that people like to be entertained. We all do. Human beings are emotional creatures, and they like to see or hear something that is entertaining or makes them laugh. So why not do just that? Brands have been doing it for decade on TV, and in the digital age, it is easier than ever to get the content out there (but harder to get it actually seen). By entertaining, you may have to forgo some of the closeness to the brand – unless you can make your brand integral to the entertainment (like Blendtec so brilliantly have done with Will it Blend?). The point with entertainment is that it always has to be on the user’s terms – and it has to be, erm, entertaining. So many brands say “we’d love to have some great entertaining content”, but then when it comes to production, they want their brand to overshadow everything. Unfortunately, that is actually worse than not doing anything. By pushing the brand too hard, you end up alienating the exact people you wanted to attract. Let it flow. Be generous, and take credit for being the brand that provides a captive audience with this awesome entertainment. That’s how you can enhance the brand’s social currency.
5. Build connections. We started with the all important engagement strategy, but will finish with connections. Make your content strategy a customer retention program, by having longterm perspective. If you build on your previous success – through your blog, your social media, your entertainment platform, your utility or whatever it is – your success will only grow. Providing value over time is the best way of making sure your customers buy from you again and again. Now I don’t believe in loyalty to companies, but this is as close as you get. When you have a platform, you can connect all the dots from social media to entertainment and utility to create a whole digital ecosystem where you continue to build your connections. Become a habit for your consumers, and you are destined for success.
There are other ways to be digital active, and obviously here I am being quite generic. Do not hesitate to get in touch by sending us an email if you would like to talk about how you can evolve your marketing from passive to active.
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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[The main photo seems completely random, but is in fact from a Japanese campaign for a twin sister idol duo, that have made more than a thousand photos available for use in advertising for free. All in the name of becoming famous. So thanks Mika-Rika, we are doing our bit to contribute to your world domination. ]