Problem of the passive audience
Youtube has begun to insert advertising into their offering. Notionally, it works well. You have to view for five seconds before you can close off the ad and get to the video you want to watch in the first place.
The ads are for Southern African brands. The huge flaw on the part of the agencies is that they are using full television commercials instead of making best use of the five seconds that I am obliged to watch. There seem to be some teething problems with targeting as well. I am not sure why they keep showing me the ad for sanitary pads
The logical strategy would be to try and get my interest in the first five seconds and induce me to watch further, or get the message through to me in five seconds. Of the two, the five second message would be best as I would be exposed to it lots. If the message had a strong audio component I would have to listen to it while I waited for the radio button that closes off the ad to appear.
My behaviour is this case is characteristic of the passive audience. I do not engage with the ad. I do not bother to absorb its message. I doubt many other Youtube viewers do as well, so I am half expecting to see an analysis which says that Youtube fails to generate sales in Southern Africa.
The most expensive communication campaign will not survive a passive audience, and the budget will be largely wasted. There are a number of causes of passive audiences and means to counter the problem, which I will describe here.
Firstly, there is a large amount of clutter in advertising communication in most mediums. People cannot individually look at two or three adverts on a page, so this means that you will have to buy premium space.
Secondly, unrewarding communication creates indifference. Instead of going by the book, seek ways to draw the audience in with questions directed at them, surprise, humour and useful information. Useful information, clearly presented, is absolutely vital, so do not be shy of using bullet points, numbering or bold type to get your facts across. Keep the design simple, so that it presents the information clearly and quickly. All too often, the desire to be artistic or creative can submerge the message. If the audience cannot see the immediate point of the ad in the visual, be it television or print, there will be no point in looking or watching for longer than it takes the eye to look elsewhere.
Thirdly, a lot of communication uses entirely the wrong medium for the audience or targets too wide. Consider for instance a national paper which has the highest print run. This may not be the right medium for a small, neighbourhood business with a very limited footprint. Consider instead in this case, local supermarket noticeboards, billboards in the immediate vicinity and even signs on lamp posts.
If launching a national campaign choose entirely captive mediums such as billboards and television. In the case of television, the audience will most likely remain seated and watch. In the case of billboards, keep them simple so that the audience can absorb them quickly from the vehicle.
In the fourth place, engage the audience meaningfully in the way that they are normally engaged in their personal lives.
Use easily understood local dialect or slang that is current to fit into your audience’s reality. If grammatically correct communication is absolutely needed, keep sentences and words short. As a point of interest, one of the key requirements of an international bestseller is an average word length of 4,3 characters and not more than 23 words per sentence.
Each of these four tactics will begin to break the passiveness of an audience which should be delivering your bottom line.
Far too much communication is driven by a set of rules that don’t work optimally anymore, and haven’t since the 70s. The trick is to put your fears aside and find out which combinations of broken rules work best for you.