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Adventures in ad skipping with a 5 year old

In search of the value of advertising

The other day Emma, my friend’s razor-sharp daughter who just turned 5, was Skyping with her grandmother while her mom and I were catching up. After a while, Em popped over to show us a YouTube video and casually turned to her mom and said the line that made both of us pause: 

‘Don’t worry mom - I skipped all the ads’.

Em’s mom is in advertising and runs a creative agency known for their witty campaigns and collection of awards. To a 5 year old, the meticulously crafted ad with the clever creative is nothing more than an interruption — something to be dismissed en route to the content she actually wanted. Em's not alone: spot how a teen’s thumb accelerates while scrolling over her Instagram feed’s sponsored posts - almost like a metronome. Yet, judging by the fees that young celebrities and tastemakers command to promote brands, our younger audiences are not put off by the concept of marketing but rather by the delivery mechanism.

And it’s not just the youngsters: ask a friend (who is not in advertising professionally) to explain the value of advertising today. If you hear any mention of advertising supporting and enabling quality content so it remains free for the consumer consider yourself very lucky. It’s rare that consumers understand (or care about) this relationship in spite of being subjected to TV, radio, print, and digital ads for decades. Those same consumers who talk about Super Bowl ads for weeks will install adblockers on all their devices, complain of restrictive paywalls, and the perceived threat of being tracked while going about one's business on the internet.

Ads in their current form have no value to a generation of users used to on-demand content.

Here’s the cold hard truth: ads in their current form have no value to a generation of users accustomed to on-demand content. Marketers need to rethink how they’re planning to reach their consumers and, overall, have a more holistic customer experience mindset. It’s still very much about delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time but thinking like, and adapting to that consumer is critical. To be able to do that well you as a marketer will need a strong data foundation and tech stack that makes it possible to take swift and relevant action across multiple channels. And while ad tech will deliver on the promise of real-time activation, as a marketer you’ll need to define and continuously refine your customer data strategy in order to be successful. If you don’t, your product, like your ads will likely be increasingly skippable.  

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