Moving From Disruptive to Engaging Experiences

People are getting better and better at avoiding disruptive ads. So why do brands continue down the road to nowhere, creating ads that are more and more disruptive? The better option is to take a page from social and apply it to the paid media world.


At a recent Brand Innovators event, we saw a trend that should chill the hearts of most creators, publishers, networks, and buyers in the ad tech industry. This New York Times article summed it up pretty well.


Source: New York Times

Basically, we’re chasing our collective tails here: ads get more disruptive, users hate them, they find ways to ignore them, we make ads that are even more disruptive and, well…


You get the idea.


We are trapped in a ridiculous cycle. As users get more resourceful at avoiding ad experiences, we marketers spend time and money getting more resourceful at developing ad experiences that are even more disruptive. We will not be ignored, as the saying goes. But data shows we won’t win this battle by behaving the same way we have in the past.


Source: eMarketer

Interestingly, people are also finding more value than ever in branded content on social media, and they are actually using social to inform their purchase decisions. It’s not just Gen Z or millennials either. Gen X and Baby Boomers are using social to educate themselves ahead of purchasing in fairly high numbers too.



Source: eMarketer

Despite the well-publicized problems of social media as of late--trolls, fraud, harassment, etc--your potential customers are finding real value there, using the branded content they find to make purchasing and preference decisions. So how about instead of creating ads that are more and more disruptive, we help ourselves and users by taking a page from social? In other words, let’s create ad experiences that are thoughtful and engaging while leveraging familiar experiences to build relationships.

We--marketers and advertisers--need to think less about disruptive experiences and more about engaging experiences. We need to ask ourselves unironically: How do we ensure that our ads are providing value for users?


Casey Saran

The blueprint is sitting right in front of us in our social feeds. Brand marketers need to take the same care with user experience in paid media as they do in social. The social side of brands has figured this out. On social media, brands get clear signals when they are being ignored; they need to create good content because users won’t follow them--or will stop following them--if the content doesn’t engage and interest them. 

We need to care about engagement and attention in ads as much as we do in social. Yes, making ads more like social is exactly what my company does but I really believe in it--and I have seen the results that follow.

The next time you’re trying to reach your customers, think about:

  • Making your ads more like social (or actually using social branded content for your ads)
  • Leverage the familiar experience of social, where users spend time for entertainment, discovery, social validation and information
  • Not making ads that are so awful your potential customers use their energy to hate on your brand and install an ad-blocker

At the very least, deliver something more like the content you know your audience likes to engage with. And here’s a pro-tip: it’s not a traditional ad.

Casey Saran is co-founder and CEO of Spaceback.


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