The digital age has undeniably seen consumers overloaded with information. With the vast number of emails we receive and the time we spend on the web, it’s no wonder new ways of filtering information are being developed. And these technologies are changing the way we consume information.
Google’s Inbox Pause, an add-on for Gmail, allows users to temporarily ‘pause’ the flow of incoming emails. When the ‘pause’ setting is activated, users are tricked into that thinking there are no new emails meaning they aren’t tempted to respond immediately when the push notification kicks in on their smartphone or tablet. Although it could be argued that we should just ignore incoming emails, it often seems that in this digital age, we’re too weak-willed to do so. Today we are used to being connected in real time to friends, family, clients or colleagues.
Zite is a cleverly designed app that provides the user with a customized magazine; it grabs news articles from the web and produces a digital magazine tailored to the user’s personal interests, thereby removing the frustration of sifting through countless articles in an attempt to find something worth reading. A similar app is Summly. It cuts irrelevant information from articles and trims the content into digestible bite size chunks.
Well-known catch-up TV services allow consumers to watch the shows they want to watch at a time that suits them. This further alleviates the inconvenience of having to wait and scroll through numerous channels before consumers stumble across something of interest.
Moreover, some websites are adapting to mitigate this information overload. Metro UK (a British newspaper company) has recently redesigned its website to suit mobile users who can now view the latest news in real time at a flick of the finger. The website is designed specifically to give information to consumers in a format that suits the user’s device and personal preferences.
Implications for the advertiser
All these technologies enable us to filter out irrelevant (or less relevant) information and to control exactly what we receive. But what about the advertiser? It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to push advertising messages through these applications. As users take greater control of their preferred diets of content and information, companies are being forced to find new, innovative ways to advertise their products and services.
Google already offers an add-on for Google Chrome which allows the user to block advertisements they see on YouTube videos. Smartphone apps also offer a paid service which cuts out advertisements. Even some forms of catch-up TV give users the chance to watch their favorite TV show without the advertisements (e.g. the Hulu service).
Nevertheless, some companies recognize the struggle advertisers are facing and offer solutions to support them in this fast-changing battle.
Facebook has a service enabling advertisers to send customized and targeted advertisements to consumers. These are presented to users based on what pages they ‘like’ and their profile information. This service became particularly attractive when evident that consumers are more likely to tolerate advertisements (or even click-through to purchase) when they feel they’re relevant to them. This was revealed in a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Value Click in 2012, where 55% of consumers said they would rather see online advertising relevant to their interests.
Another way advertisers are pushing their advertisements to consumers is through apps. In order to offer consumers a free service, advertisers pay the app developer for the right to display on the app. Consumers are also given the option to pay for the service themselves to make it advertisement free. However, a recent article showed that 87% of Facebook app users and 61% of Smartphone app users favor free apps with advertising rather than paid apps without. So for now, at least in the app world, advertisers appear to have a sustainable model.
Currently, however, the industry is fighting advertisement blocking by claiming breach of copyright. The argument is that when consumers block advertisements on a webpage they are unlawfully adapting the page by violating the contract between the advertiser and the website. If the argument is upheld that advertisers do have copyright over the web page and where their advertisements are placed, then advertisers may win the right to prevent users from blocking their advertisements in the future.
It is a growing trend that consumers are part of a narrowing world where we’re regularly exposed to various products and services based on our consumer profile – an 18 year old female will live in a very different world to a 65 year old male. However, as advertisements grow more targeted and customized we risk missing out on those moments of serendipity. For example, a single young male with no children is unlikely to be interested in prams or baby toys. However, if a close friend has recently had a child, then such items may be of interest as a gift idea.
Technology will inevitably develop and whether advertisers win copyright or grow more targeted and customized, advertisers will need to innovate to find new ways to push their advertisements while respecting the customized settings consumers have put in place and somehow not lose those serendipitous moments.