Friday, November 9, 2007

Attracting the Attention of Internet Users

Reports on multitasking always amuse me. That’s probably because I see when I am sitting in front of the computer with the TV on in the background, maybe playing a video clip or webcast loud enough to be heard over it. I’m a member of the group, and I’m always interested to see what we are doing.

Marketing Charts quoted a recent study by Burst Media in which they found both men and women of all ages multitasking while they are online. They found that:

• ”Watching television (58.3%) is the most common offline activity while also online.
• Television viewing is followed by job-related activities (33.0%), reading a book (31.1%), reading a magazine or newspaper (29.7%), talking on a cell phone (23.6%), listening to the radio (21.6%), school work (17.9%), sending text messages by cell phone or other device (17.8%), and playing video games (15.5%).” See the full report here.

Not surprisingly, young users 18 – 34 do a bit more, but I doubt the differences are significant until you get to the 45s and older. USA Today did a series last year that went into depth on the media habits of the younger set, elaborating on issues I wrote about earlier in the week. They are trend-setters and it’s important to watch them, but don’t let that obscure the fact that multitasking is universal.

The question then becomes how we attract their attention in any medium—and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. There has been a lot of buzz recently about both MySpace and Facebook offering targeted advertising that is based on behavioral profiling. The buzz is a bit overdone because behavioral targeting is an established sub-discipline of Internet marketing. eMarketer, quoting the Connected Consumers study cited in an earlier post, consumers find personalized ads useful at the same time they have some qualms about being tracked.
There is also the time-honored direct marketing technique of offering them something. That approach is going mobile, and it’s especially popular with the young. However, a couple of recent ads from my friends at BostonNow shows that it’s taking hold in urban environments too. Mobile advertising has a way to go in the US, but if you are heading in the direction of one of the restaurants, why not text ahead for a free serving of nachos or a free cup of coffee? As direct marketers know, “free” is the operative word, and it attracts attention. Good marketers will carefully acquire opt-in permission to continue offering these customers mobile promotions. Let the dialog begin!

These two ways of attracting the attention of consumers have something in common. They do not rely on what pundits from Seth Godin to Bob Garfield have described as “interruption marketing.” It just doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are doing something else important and they don’t want to be interrupted.

Relevance works. So does embedding targeted offers in entertaining content.

What doesn’t work is trying too hard--too obviously--to sell them something. Online advertising needs to avoid the meaningless blandness of most offline advertising. Presence on social media must offer something useful in a life-style appropriate manner. Mobile absolutely must be invited.

We are in search of a new advertising (or is it non-advertising?) model. Any thoughts on what it’s going to look like?
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