It’s maybe brave to tell a crowd of advertising people that nobody wants to watch your ad, but that’s what happened at the New York Times House on Day Two of this year’s SXSW. Brave, but also insightful. Because we know that pre-roll is difficult to get right, and in fact YouTube has announced that they are soon to get rid of unskippable preroll ad formats altogether. But the broader point here was about the need to adapt what you do for the medium that you are using – don’t just put your TV ad online and make people watch it before (or even in the middle of) a video on YouTube just as you would buy media space for it on TV.

Just as journalism has had to adapt to the shift from stories being printed once a day and distributed on paper to stories being live (and living) online, so advertising needs to continue to make better online advertising by eschewing some those rules that work for TV (or for print, or for radio) but don’t translate onto how people behave and how they consume content online. Don’t arbitrarily interrupt a short video by forcing people to watch some content for your brand, for example. They’ll probably have the sound off and know that they have 30 seconds to get through before they get to what they want, so they might not even look at the screen. The ad will play, and be recorded as a view, but that might be the very last thing it was.

Good use of online formats requires us to have a good understanding of how people really behave online, what content they consume and how, and then to design experiences for them. Just as new and journalism is having to adapt to these new behaviours and to these new challenges, so must brands and advertising agencies.

But really this comes down to something that good strategy and good advertising, has always been based on. An understanding of how people behave and how to talk to them. New challenges and new problems to overcome; but the same techniques and approaches to help us to do this.

See everything the team got up to on Day Two in Austin


Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Digital Strategy Director for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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