News & Views

An Antidote to Digital Delirium

It’s a rapidly changing world – especially the world of advertising as the pages of Campaign and a raft of marketing magazines trumpet in every edition. We are living in digital days and we must adapt or die. A recent article offered the thought that “traditionalists will argue that it’s the message not the medium, but when the medium is totally unlike anything that has gone before in advertising…” and so it goes. Traditionalists versus Digitalists? Is it really necessary to be so polarising?

Digital is a relatively new medium, but it is still a medium. Any medium is the vehicle by which the message is delivered and surely that remains true if you receive a message on your computer, mobile phone, newspaper or by carrier pigeon. So what is different, the mentality of the recipient? What proof is there of that?

There is a strong inference that digital communications are guaranteed to be more effective than traditional media because the channels of delivery place the message right in front of the nose of the target in a way that is impossible to dismiss. By that logic all digital advertising must be equally effective because it is all equally intrusive, but intuition tells you that can’t be possible. Anything can be dismissed.

Let’s face it, people don’t buy magazines or switch on televisions and radios for the ads, and the same goes for computers and mobile phones. Advertising is an uninvited intrusion into people’s lives regardless of the source. There is nothing more annoying than to have started to read an interesting article on the computer screen only for an ad popup to suddenly obscure the focus of your attention. When you respond to a mobile phone beep expecting to see a long awaited message from a loved one only to be confronted by a sales message, homicidal tendencies are hard to suppress. Two links that appeared when I was recently surfing the net read Want fewer ads? Hotmail Plus. Among other benefits, there are no more graphical ads and Escaping online ads that won’t let up. Clearly I am not alone. I would bet that the most clicked message worldwide is ‘skip this ad’.

Sure, online behavioural advertising can target my specific interests, but that is cold comfort in the above situations which occur frequently, and anyway, if I go to the Top Gear website every day it doesn’t mean I want to buy a car.

There is no doubt that digital advertising offers expanded touchpoint horizons for the marketer with stimulating possibilities, but let’s keep it real. A touchpoint can only be truly called a touchpoint if the message touches people. If recipients see messages that motivate them, then there is a good chance they will respond, if not the opposite will be true – so it was and so it always will be.

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