Commentary

Does Your Creative Deliver Instant Gratification?

  • by February 5, 2007
We Americans aren't exactly notorious for our patience. Be it history, politics, science, technology, whatever -- from our race to the moon to our rush to judgment, we've been accused of being -- well, young, to be polite. Just witness the pace at which the average 12-year-old burns through the paces on his gaming devices these days. My intention is not to debate the sociological nervosa of the American character, or the number of hours our youth are spending on gaming platforms instead of literature. I'll leave that to the social psychologists to ponder.

The key question for imarketers and agencies is, what effect does this "press-a-button-and-something-instantly-happens" conditioning have on the user experiences we must design in order to help advertisers have an impact in the interactive medium? Because when it comes to online behavior, the now-familiar TV cliché of "I want to watch what I want, when I want it" isn't just a PowerPoint headline, it's an online way of life. Witness YouTube.

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As designers of online experiences for brands, we must start by acknowledging that "engagement" is not synonymous with time spent making the online "viewser" work... or even read, for that matter. Particularly with younger demos. Their pace of life combined with the sheer velocity of new mobile technologies with simple interfaces that provide instant gratification -- from Wiis and iPODs to MMS phones -- make the requisite to instantly gratify more imperative than ever before. And these viewsers simply won't tolerate waiting. Like the texts and IMs they communicate through, they simply want to press a button and have something happen.

When it doesn't, and you're the sponsor, you get flamed right along with the experience -- and they just move on.

As creatives, it's imperative that we focus both our skills and mindsets to ensure that the messages, microsites, banners and broadband video we put online stand up to this test of instant gratification... or the "wow" factor we've become famous for delivering will fast become the "skip" factor. Witness TiVO.

Is your display advertising "encouraging" or "discouraging"?We often see advertisers relying on serving rich media, expandable banners, or even page takeovers to breakthrough the page, but that's not exactly "instantly gratifying." In most cases, they're probably discouraging because their brand message is actually covering up the very content the user came to the site to seek out. We counsel that the elements of a more encouraging, gratifying display campaign are intrigue, contextual relevance and adjacency -- not invasion.(There's that "American" thing again!)

Is your microsite/landing page functionally gratifying? You might think so. But just because it looks like a publishers' site, advergame or video player doesn't mean you're gratifying the viewser -- particularly if your viral game's too complicated or your pre-rolls are really :30 commercials. So if you're developing creative against this mindset, think like you're at an ATM: easy way in, instant gratification out.

Deliver them something for the time they've spent with you... fast! At the end of the day, or unique visit in this case, where you want your brand to live is adjacent to the goods... the gratification. Those places where and when I make my choice, create my own, preview my result -- where the activation happens... at that moment of '"technological glee."

We live in a time when the days of generic loading counters, page takeovers, video buffering and text-heavy HTML sites have become a turnoff -- and the need for more innovative creative experiences has become the requisite. For some, that means teaser campaigns for animated characters that are, sadly, mistaken for bombs. Or Super Bowl commercials created by consumers -- or product placements in reality shows. Whatever way you spend, make sure you find both distinctive and relevant ways to maximize instant gratification. Because while it may not be instantly apparent to your agency, it's very gratifying to both the advertiser and the consumer when you get it right.

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