Advertisers always want to reach audience. It’s what we do. But once we have the attention, how do we reward it?


Seeing this title in one of my news feeds gave me a sour taste. That title spells out what is wrong here.

"Breaking through to consumers" implies a power struggle and commodifies the audience. "New tactics" will never be the solution if the strategy is not sound and respectful of the audience.

This tactical perspective is efficient for business but is inherently disconnected from people. What we need to remember and respect and furthermore appreciate is that the audience is comprised of real, living, learning human beings and they have the power. We should want them to be stakeholders, not targets.

If advertising at large was more relevant in addressing a need, the adoption of ad blocking and the aversion to marketing itself would not be such an existential issue to the industry.

Let’s be clear, advertisers have created this immunity behavior. Breaking through it is not the answer. Improving the approach is. Sure stepping back to consider the human experience makes our jobs harder. That’s fair. We’re not curing disease or roadmapping a viable clean energy solution.

We’re simply trying to communicate things that matter to people that care. I’d rather have my audience cut in half than be twice as large with half of them annoyed at the ad I just paid to run. Bringing people back to the table requires advertisers to deliver some validated value, IN THE AD. This tension is always a matter of scale and economy.

As this article points out, native content, native advertising is more effective. When we talk about efficiency metrics it outperforms but it requires much more time to create and curate and it is generally placed in front of much smaller populations of people.

Business often moves much faster than that and the friction we observe is the difference between the speed of business and the speed of a human attention span. If the audience doesn’t know if they care about your message, you better deliver it quickly. If they do care, you’ve got some time to connect.

If the goal is simple and a banner ad makes a quick value promise, then the payoff is proportional. This has its place. Everything doesn’t have to point to substantive content but simply adequate, relevant reward.

Where we end up is that not all advertising can be long form, emotionally substantial narrative content that connects with us like a good book. So the lighter more agile units that comprise this content pollution should be crafted with more deliberation to pursue goals that benefit both audience and advertiser.

If that’s done well the merit of the message and the experiential value stands a much better chance of tipping back toward serving up a win-win for audiences and advertisers.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director