A recent article by James McQuivey on Forbes proposes that the age of interruption is coming to a close, because people will no longer be doing interruptible things on interruption-friendly devices. If so, what does that mean for the future of brands and advertising?
I must admit I smiled a little when I first read the title of McQuivey’s piece, because about a decade ago the industry media were full of pundits claiming that the internet meant that interruption was dead. Of course, they were seeing the internet as a more engaging medium than TV; one where people would not tolerate interruption and advertisers would respect their wishes for relevant content.
Sadly the pundits were wrong. In a desperate attempt to get people to pay attention to their advertising, marketers were lured into buying ever more interruptive forms of advertising, bringing us to today where no digital task seems free from interruption. The strange thing is that while ads interrupt TV viewing, for the most part they do so in a fixed and predictable way. When it comes to digital, interruption occurs on every device, irrespective of the consumer’s task or mindset.
For instance, amusing in retrospect but annoying at the time, was the fact that my reading of McQuivey’s article was interrupted first by an in-text video ad (luckily it failed to load properly leaving me to navigate round a black box labeled “advertisement”) and then by an autoplay video with sound enabled. Unable to quickly detect which video was interrupting my concentration I simply shut down the page. Hey presto! No more ad.
You really have to wonder why anyone would give attention to an ad that is delivered in this way. An ad would have to be super-relevant in order to overcome my instinctive negative reaction to being interrupted and, as yet, I have not come across one. I long ago gave up watching linear, broadcast TV not because of the ads, but simply because I want to watch what I want when I want. And, much as I probably should not admit it, I am sorely tempted to load an ad blocker to save myself from the crass attempts to gain my attention in digital media. So, it is no wonder that McQuivey is anticipating the end of interruptive advertising, as Alexa and future AI applications further disintermediate the advertiser and their audience. I suspect this is only a matter of time because I have to believe there are billions of other people who would welcome an interruption free world.
McQuivey suggests that future of advertising lies with chatbots that take on the personality of the brand and respond to queries in a way that is appropriate to the users to your context, your need, and your emotional state. I remain a little skeptical of how quickly this future might arrive given the current state of ad targeting but my real question is, how will I know which brand to ask and what to ask for? When it is not interrupting every few seconds advertising can actually be informative and useful. It helps people navigate their world and know what might be relevant to them, but only if it starts by respecting the audience’s mindset and by offering something engaging and relevant.
Written by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar Millward Brown.