It shouldn’t come as a shock to any of us that online ads aren’t exactly loved and revered by all who see them.
Most advertising becomes useful to us only if we have a need for the products and services being offered.
For an ad to work its magic, it first needs to stand out from the crowd of ads that clutter the Web. For individual ads, this can mean using bright colors, animation, compelling messages, and so forth, but getting the average online customer to pay attention to an ad these days also requires that the ad’s approach be in line with the customer’s desires and expectations.
In the past, I have beat up the GIF ad banner for being very ineffective. I will probably continue to do so in the future. I bear no malice toward the lowly billboard, but I do take exception with the expectation advertisers have — that customers will see these ads and readily click them. So far, this hasn’t been the case.
The reasons behind consumer behavior are varied. However, there are two main reasons for GIF ads not performing:
- They work only if they can interrupt customers and divert them from what they are doing.
- Most consumers have already been burned by unscrupulous advertisers who will do anything to get the click-through, and consumers are not about to fall for it ever again.
As a result, most online ad banners have the same emotional appeal as a marathon session of dental surgery. All is not lost, however.
The Advantages of Rich Media
One clear advantage that rich media ads offer is that the customer can interact directly with the advertiser’s brand. This obviously benefits advertisers, but it also benefits customers by allowing them to explore the ad space for the information that is of interest to them, in an environment that doesn’t require that they go elsewhere to receive it. If the ad has been properly designed, the customer can learn more about the advertiser’s products and services and can take advantage of the offer within the ad or at a more convenient time.
Rich media cannot be effective in its role, however, unless the customer is aware that the ad is rich in the first place.
The average customer doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about online advertising. Customers see the ads; they glance at those things that capture their attention; sometimes the attention is held for a few seconds; and, once in a great while, customers feel compelled to explore further by clicking through. However, if you can grab their attention, offer them something new and different, and allow them to explore without having to leave what they are doing, you change the whole dynamic between customer and advertiser.
The first secret of success with this approach is making certain that the customer understands that your ad is different from the wider compliment of GIF ads running today.
The Three Imperatives
To successfully engage the customer, you need to make sure that three things happen.
The first task is to attract the customer’s attention. When creating a rich media ad, it doesn’t pay to be subtle. You need to come right out and let customers know what’s going on. Language such as, “Play right here in this INTERACTIVE ad!” or, ” Expand this ad to learn more!” or even, “We won’t take you to our Web site” offers the customer more information and provides functionality that cannot be offered in a GIF banner ad.
Sometimes the best indication of a rich media ad’s functionality is to show that functionality in action. Add interactive elements that become apparent when the customer rolls a mouse over the ad. From simple state changes, such as glowing buttons or quick sound effects, to rollovers that expand the ad space and set the messaging in motion, these visual indicators grab the customer’s attention — and, if done properly, can immediately engage them.
The second task is to provide a brief explanation to customers on how interacting with the ad can benefit them. We all have an innate message filtering system based on the relevance that information has to our needs. If a message doesn’t meet up with our needs, it is quickly discharged and generally doesn’t even enter our consciousness. To have a more universal appeal, the ad might have a message that promotes a more general offer, such as FREE anything, or VALUABLE something, or even CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO take this action? Overall, let customers know what’s in it for them.
The third task is to inform customers of what they need to do to get started. Instructions should be simple, such as, “Click on the print button to receive your money-saving coupons” or, “Drag the car keys to the new Honda for your chance to win!” Save the lengthy explanation or the full offer until you have gotten the customer engaged and started down the proper path. Instructions should be intuitive and easy to follow. The confused customer will not stick around.
Customers are interested in the products and services being offered around them. However, not every customer is a candidate for what you are offering. By informing customers that your ad is there to help them learn and may be of value to them, and by letting them know how they can benefit, you can make all the difference between a campaign that works and one that doesn’t.