Somebody out there can source this, I’m sure. The joke is that a anti-establishment type is asked by some official-like person: “Do you favor the overthrow of the government by violence or subversion” and replies, “Is this a yes-no question or do I get a choice?”
Anyway, I thought about that recently after reading a headline in an essay section of the Millward Brown Web site. It reads, “Individual online ads are not more irritating than TV ads.”
Well, I thought, that’s truly one small step for mankind. Irritating? Absolutely. More
irritating? Maybe not.
Headline notwithstanding, the thoughtful essay was penned by Millward Brown’s Nigel Hollis, the executive vice president and chief global analyst over there. He was commenting on a WARC study trying to figure out why consumers seem to have a dimmer view of online video advertising than they do advertising on TV.
But Hollis said the new study says the difference may be individual online ads, not all of them. Bad online ads turn off consumers more than if that ad was on TV, but good, interesting ads do “ten times” better.
What’s going on here? Hollis has a theory. “I think it all comes back to how we consume the two media,” he writes. “We expect to be in control of our online experience, and more often than not we are task oriented, looking for content that will be immediately relevant to us. Ads irrelevant to that task at hand are annoyances and to be avoided.”
But he says TV “mostly remains a passive viewing experience ... We may not attend to the ads much, but we still get exposed to them because there is no imperative to do otherwise. I believe that the true power of TV lies in the very indifference of its viewers because they watch ads for brands that they would not otherwise” care about. Online viewers “are not going to waste time on something that is irrelevant at that moment.”
And passive TV viewers will waste that time.
It may be entirely possible that there is another reason.
Television has been around and at full throttle for more than five decades. Viewers know the drill and they know how to avoid ads, or, to put it in another accurate term, tune them out. Online video advertising is newer and keeps calling attention to the fact it wasn’t really invited on to your desktop in the first place. After so many years of TV viewing, there’s an internal clock that tells you the ads are about over so you can get back to balancing the checkbook later. You know your enemy.
But those little online ad pre-interruptions aren’t long enough to give a user something useful to do. Hence, they’re more annoying, and online viewers, knowing they are still the guinea pigs for a new advertising source, have no advantage in telling anybody they really like pre-roll ads or any ads at all. Television existed for a long time before ad-free PBS and HBO. Online video grew up without advertising and its most prestigious place is Netflix. Ads do seem like an intrusion.
But there they are. In the end, the best idea is to make good ads, and then present them to the right people.