Content Strategy: The Problem With Trying to Get Attention

3 minute read
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Customers today have less and less attention to give. On the Web, they’re doing research, trying to complete tasks. They don’t like being disrupted.

The traditional communications, marketing and advertising industries are facing major challenges. Their old models aren’t working as well anymore.

“Outside of live televised events, advertising is easy to avoid,” Winston Binch, Chief Digital Officer at Deutsch LA states. “People can skip ads.” Indeed they can. The American TV networks are frantically suing Dish Network Corp to try and stop its Hopper technology that allows you to easily skip ads. Hopper is proving popular because, surprise, surprise, there are lots of people out there who want to skip ads.

Corporate communications and advertising are a tax on our time. As we become more empowered and in control of our lives, the traditional broadcast advertising model feels increasingly intrusive and annoying. Why should we be forced to sit and watch an ad for cars when we have absolutely no intention of buying a car? Advertising feels like the opposite of what a modern society should be about.

“I love a great commercial as much the next person and am in awe of the creative and strategic minds that create them,” Binch states with a somewhat delusional tone, “but modern marketing success requires a whole lot more than great ads.”

Binch does come up with a lot of positive recommendations for change, mainly around breaking up traditional departmental silos and encouraging lots of cross-discipline collaboration and experiments. He also suggests that “agencies need to make a greater case with clients for authenticity.” Agreed. But then he goes on to give an example of this authenticity. “Last year, our Super Bowl teaser for Volkswagen, "The Barkside," featured a bunch of dogs barking the theme to Star Wars. It didn't include any product and received 14 million views in two weeks.”

Learning Opportunities

So, "authenticity" for a car equals barking dogs and nothing at all about the car itself? Binch is playing Attention Lotto, trying to come up with crazier and crazier ideas that will get our attention. And, yes, if you come up with something truly, utterly ridiculous you will get the attention of some, but it’s a race to the bottom with other advertisers as everyone tries to be more and more outlandish.

David Armano, Managing Director of Edelman Digital Chicago, also thinks advertising needs a revolution. He states that the “dirty little secret” of advertising is that “it's all about the campaign.” His solution? Adopt "journalism" sensibilities and create lots of content.

I worked with an airline once that had lots of content on the destinations to which they flew. When they deleted all this content their sales went up. I could give you many more examples where reducing content increases sales, reduces support requests and increases customer satisfaction. Attention-grabbing content is often getting in the way of those who want to complete a task with you.

We need to turn advertising on its head. On the Web, the customer is now the advertiser. When they search they are placing an ad. Traditional marketing is about getting attention while web marketing is about giving it. 

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.