Forced Ad Viewing

On top of gaming, blogging, behavioral targeting, streaming video, and the like, a macro trend is on the horizon. It’s a logical outgrowth of the overall discomfort marketers have around a reliance on traditional mass media.

In a world where consumers are empowered to choose the content (and advertising) they view, a number of entrepreneurs are developing environments that “force” consumers, through a variety of incentives, to watch and recall advertising. Many are highly skeptical of such schemes (as I am). They don’t allow consumers to absorb messages in an organic environment. But they seem to be getting both consideration and test budgets from many leading marketers.

What do I know?

You may remember It existed a few years ago and was the first property to my knowledge to devote an entire Web destination to advertising (and to consumers who love it). Its mantra was “all ads, all the time.” Its rapid fall from grace and dramatic business failure spoke volumes about consumers’ lack of interest in viewing marketing messages.

Then came, billing itself as “the nation’s #1 employer.” It paid millions of consumers to surf and click on ads. Another crash and burn.

Undaunted, a few new efforts are underway to pay consumers to watch video ads online. If viewers answer a few questions correctly about the ads (to ensure they take away the salient points), they get paid.

One such effort, which rewards consumers with 50 cents in their PayPals accounts for each correctly retained commercial, is BrandPort. The company has supposedly gotten test money from leading marketers who are seeing “tremendous results.”

I know of two other companies executing on this basic concept. I’m not at liberty to get into specifics, but I can say they also pay consumers (either in cash or with credits) to watch and retain ads.

Something about this whole dynamic just rubs me the wrong way. I understand we must experiment with different methods of connecting with consumers in an ever-more difficult environment. However, I believe the solution more naturally lies in precisely targeting relevant consumers with compelling messages in the right environments.

Call me a traditionalist, but it’s more about right message, right place, and right time, as opposed to bribing or blackmailing consumers.

What do you think?

A Personal Update

In the words of (my client) Johnson & Johnson, “Having a baby changes everything.” Those of you who have experienced the miracle of having a child can appreciate and relate to that sentiment.

My wife and I just had our second child. Naturally, we’re dealing with all the challenges associated with having a two year old and a newborn in the household. A few nights ago, while I was rocking Arielle (our newborn) to sleep at 3 a.m., I found myself thinking about a host of things. One of the more relevant topics was pondering what life would be like for Arielle as she grows up in the 21st century’s second decade.

Think about the changes we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. In personal computing, I remember growing up with my Commodore Vic 20, replete with a 1MHz processor, 5Kb of RAM, and a cassette recorder drive. I still have vivid memories of the Apple IIe I got in junior high school and how cool I thought it was to program in BASIC and play video games on the green phosphorescent screen.

That was only 25 years ago.

It’s almost impossible to imagine what life will be like for Arielle when she graduates college and enters the business world. What will computers be like? What will the Internet look like? Will the Web as we know it still exist? How will marketers use technology to reach and connect with consumers?

If I could predict the future, I’d probably not be working for a living, but a few things I am certain of. The future will be unlike anything we can predict, and today’s children will experience a world in which a seamless blend of technology permeates every facet of their existence. Arielle has a very exciting future ahead of her, that’s for sure.

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