I was recently feeding my Lost addiction on Abc.com. I ran into some technical difficulties while trying to watch it in HD so I went through the process of opening the player several times. Each time I opened the player there was a different advertiser sponsoring the show. The difference in advertising approaches was remarkable. At one end of the scale was Benefiber with a very sparse, static page simply showing their logo and a link to their website.
At the other end was Embassy Suites with a completely interactive experience that promoted the differentiating amenities they offer.
Normally I am the type of Web surfer that rarely spends much time noticing or interacting with advertising unless the goal is to examine the advertisement itself. While I have many friends who happily admit to playing the Flash games in advertisements, I’ve never felt compelled to catch the DVDs flying through the air. Therefore, either of the ads shown above would normally have the same impact on me if I was just on the web reading a news article or purchasing a product.
However, in the context of watching a TV show in an interactive player, I thought the Embassy Suites advertisement was a perfectly relevant experience that took the medium into consideration. Since I was already engaged inside my viewing experience and had the requisite 30 seconds to kill before the next segment aired, I figured, “Sure, I’ll click to play racecar for half a minute.”
It made me think about how important it is to factor your customer’s context into any experience that you are trying to create. For example, in the case of the player, it makes a lot of sense to try advertisements with interaction and sound because the user’s volume is probably not muted and they are actively in front of their computer. However, I’ve seen many customers run tests on their sites pitting rich media content against static images and the latter wins more often than not. That makes sense because the user’s context is entirely different. Once I am on a site with a goal in mind, whether it’s to purchase something or fill out a form for more information, I often find rich media to be a distraction. I don’t want to wait for it to load and I don’t want sound to play inadvertently because I forgot to mute the volume.
Does all this mean that I think Benefiber made a mistake with their static branding ad? Not necessarily, I just think that they might not have gotten the full bang for their buck. (I imagine that it wasn’t a cheap buck either!) I’d love to see somebody test their in-player advertisement and prove me right or wrong. In fact, I’ll throw a test idea out there. Design 4 different variations that span the gradient from simple, static image to interactive Flash with sound. These types of tests are great because they answer a specific question so that you’re sure to get learnings regardless of which version is ultimately the winner.
In emerging platforms like social networks, widgets, media players and mobile devices, I would venture to say that it is especially important to test your content, if only to better understand the mindset of your customer and the nuances of the platform. Just as traditional newspaper editors couldn’t throw their articles online and call it a day, we as online marketers and advertisers can’t repurpose content from one platform to another and be satisfied that we’ve completed our jobs either.