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.