As both a marketer and a consumer, I've often wondered whether most people feel the way I do about the intrusion of an ad while I'm reading something online or watching television. I was raised to believe that interrupting was rude. And yet, Brands have been interrupting us since Desi loved Lucy and developers figured out how to do it online. Reading an article on a website became more like negotiating a mine field of little "X's", the only way to close an ad that popped up over the content you actually wanted to read. Then, if I'm intrigued enough to actually click on such an ad, I'd be ejected from that site to a faraway land of the marketer's choosing.
Then I read an article this morning at nytimes.com talking about how marketers are moving further away from pushing their wares instrusively and teleporting readers involuntarily. Instead they are letting their consumers do the talking for them, right from the comfort of the page they're on.
"Now, companies increasingly are running online ads that focus less on pitching their products than promoting their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The ads, which have menu tabs and increasingly resemble mini-Web sites themselves, allow users to click within the ad to see a brand’s Twitter messages or Facebook wall posts in real time, or to watch a brand’s video content from YouTube — all without leaving the Web page where the ad appears."
Ingenious! About time. What took us so long? But what happens when a less than flattering comment from a disgruntled consumer rears its ugly virtual head on Facebook or Twitter and then appears in these "cloud-based ad units"?
According to Andy Smith, a co-author (with Jennifer Aaker) of “The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change,” whom the New York Times article quotes:
“There is transparency in being willing to say, ‘This is what people are saying about us,’ And with the relationships that people have with brands today, the more honest and human they seem, the more likely consumers are to like them and stick with them.”
The trade off seems to be worth it. According to the article, consumers are spending on average about 30 seconds on these types of ads compared to traditional online ad units, which they say Google confirms is usually only about 11 seconds (even that number sounds high to me).
Like everything associated with Web 2.0, these ad units give more power than ever over to the consumer, which is both exhilarating and terrifying depnding on whether or not your Brand can handle the truth.