Advertising in our search, skip and share culture

by Nigel Hollis | August 30, 2017

One of the big shifts that has taken place over the last couple of decades has been in the way people seek entertainment and information. We now have the ability to find what we want, when we want. Along with all the other changes that have taken place this makes life more difficult for advertisers.

Remember when pretty much all content was appointment content? If you do then it dates you just like it does me. This was not just a matter of waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones, this was waiting for everything.

As a kid I can remember the building anticipation, waiting for the next issue of Look and Learn to arrive in the mail, so I could read the next installment of the Trigan Empire, or the intense disappointment if I missed an episode of Doctor Who. Much as it delights me that Doctor Who is still running (the series is almost as old as me!) it does not seem quite right that you can catch it on the BBC’s iPlayer if you miss an episode. 

Writing this makes me wonder if there has not been a deeper cultural shift as content has moved from appointment to On Demand. Do we now approach all forms of entertainment with a somewhat blasé attitude? Were my emotional highs and lows of days gone by simply those of a child, or is it that I valued the content more because it was not easily available when and where I wanted it? Or maybe it is simply the sheer volume of content available today has undermined the value of any content?


These days we often refer to ‘snackable video’ – short video clips that can be viewed on a mobile phone to satisfy a moment of boredom. Maybe much of the content available to us now is the equivalent of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin compared to a good, old-fashioned full English? (Please note black pudding is not optional, people, it is essential.)

So what does all this mean for advertisers? Our search, skip and share culture means that people can seek out what they want, when and where they want it. If a quick glance suggests there is nothing of interest they move on, which unfortunately happens with most advertising. If they love what they find then they can share it and talk about it with others. Except maybe the standard of what is loved has changed. Maybe people are more willing to share Egg McMuffin content simply because it easy to do so?

Personally I doubt it. I suspect that in spite of the vast array of digital content available to them people are desperate for compelling and interesting content. And that means that advertisers have to step up their game. People have to be willing to seek out your content and want to share it with others. But what do you think? Do our standards differ in terms of what content we are willing to consume today and how? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Philip Conliffe, September 05, 2017

    I readily admit to being a late tech adopter and only recently began subscribing to a music streaming service.  I'm still processing the cultural change of being able to listen to anything ever recorded at any time vs. agonizing over how to allocate my limited budget for CDs.  This currently seems monumental to me and am surprised that it hasn't been discussed more prominently.  (Or perhaps it was in 2012 and I missed it.)

    I have to think that the net impact of so much readily available content is to lessen its perceived value and appreciation for the craft that went into it. Given the wealth of options, I'm growing more skeptical that simply encouraging content producers including advertisers to make better content is necessarily going to pay meaningful dividends.  Don't get me wrong: good content will find its audience but those individual audiences are getting progressively smaller and smaller.  

  2. Ta, August 31, 2017

    Personally, I have less interest in commercial content. So when I scroll down my Facebook feed to see what the hell people are talking about, I often ignore what I perceive it commercial. Of course, I go to Facebook for some funny contents... some stupid, poor visual that can make me laugh. I don't know why they can attract me. Maybe they don't look perfect... they don't look commercial.

    From my experience working on content, most of the times brand manager or communication director are brand-focused. They want to talk brandingly. Mood and tone, logo, key message, color... kind of that stuff. And that make the contextual look so boring, it likes you are looking at a stone. I think it might be the time those guys must be more audience-focused. Create context that just right for them.

    I don't mean they need to fuck up their brands guideline.... but yeah, I need human-to-human content not commercial, brand-first content.

  3. Ed C, August 30, 2017
    This is great - and I love the deep thoughts. I think society is being a bit engineered in how to accept content, where waiting for a magazine or TV show isn't as acceptable. One could argue that we can't fast forward to holidays, but even that has been done, as holiday shopping now starts months before the actual holiday. I still do agree there's a desire for "good content" - whether a good story, a good advertisement, a good holiday experience - that people are willing to wait (and perhaps pay more) for.
  4. Paul Edwards, August 30, 2017

    You are so right on the black pudding - essential.

    And I think it is a useful metaphor - I always look for a breakfast venue that does a good Black pud.

    But I do wonder if this is an age thing and the younger ones are happy with the plastic snack?

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