| October 23, 2017
A trip on the New York subway soon reminds you that we live in a mobile-first culture. Out of the ten people in the same carriage as me most were using their phones: listening to music, reading the news or streaming video. This is the environment in which today’s advertising needs to exist and thrive.
The intriguing thing about watching the people using their phones is just how much attention is devoted to the screen. It is not just that people are insulated from outside noise by their ear buds, their eyes are locked on the screen to the exception of all else. In a subway carriage these digital zombies are pretty innocuous; it is just a problem when they get out on the street and start bumping into things.
Research commissioned by Facebook IQ with Kantar Media agrees with my observations. Apparently Millennials in the UK are more likely than all respondents to say it’s easier to focus when watching on mobile (vs on a computer). So how best to take advantage of this heightened attention? Interruptive advertising is not the answer because heightened attention brings with it heightened annoyance of interruption.
Until recently I had assumed that younger people, the mobile natives if you like, would be more accepting of advertising on their mobile devices. Not true. The 16 to 19 year olds, the people most likely to spend more than an hour a day on their mobile phones, are also the least accepting of ads seen on mobile devices, particularly pop-ups and pre-roll ads over which they have no control. In North America over 70 percent of Gen Z stated that ads interrupt them when they want to do something else, higher than Millennials.
So what do they want to instead? It should come as no surprise that they are watching snack-sized bites of video, either free or clips from their social feeds. A lot of this content is not professionally produced. Kantar TNS Connected Life study finds that 39 percent of 16 to 24 year olds agree that “Most of the content I watch is produced by other users or celebrities”. This sounds like another problem for advertisers, however, I do not think we should get too fixated on it because younger people watch lots of video both professionally-produced and not.
I believe the real challenges for advertisers continue to be 1) how to create mobile videos that resonate with the target audience, particularly one that is increasingly fragmented in its views and values, and 2) how to reach a sizeable audience with those videos (at a reasonable cost). Yes, we can reach people more easily than ever but the accuracy and safety of the placement remains in question. For me I think the answer to the second challenge lies with the first. Create great content that does not feel like a sales pitch and people will watch it. Make that content remarkable, inspirational or useful and people will be likely to share it with others. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.