Love it, hate it, total indifference.

It’s a common pattern when confronted with anything you don’t expect. You might love it, you might hate it, you may not care in the slightest. Designers always want to polarize – they’d rather some loved and some hated the product than everyone though it was just about ok. Why? We know from many studies that while products that the majority hate tend to die quickly, products that the majority are “meh” about tend to linger on – overly optimistic product owners promising that their luke-warm audience will suddenly blossom into passionate uber-customers.

But I digress.. in an interesting post this week Jonathan MacDonald contrasts traditional display (banner) advertising with eating fast food on the train – hey, I love the emotive response his comparison triggers in me. He’s right though – when presented with yet another banner for car insurance when I’m trying to read the news I’m likely to respond in one of these three ways – and to be honest, loving it is not really up there.


Maybe today is that one day about every three years that I may consider changing my insurance provider. It’s probably not.

Which is odd when you look at struggling web2.0 or mobile2.0 companies – they seem to be doing all they can to dump irrelevant advertising everywhere. Be it a homepage takeover or just 5 banners in a block, they’re trying to extract that last cent of ad revenue while pissing their last handful of users off.

Thumbs-UpI noticed a while back that Facebook are trying to do something about this by adding the “like” and “unlink” links to each ad they display on the right hand side of the page. Not only can I click on the link, but I can tell them how useful I thought the ad was. Hopefully I’ve been conditioned by Digg, Y! Buzz or Facebook itself to actively “like” everything that is relevant/funny and so I’ll click it.. but somehow I think that just a few clicks might overpower much of their actual feedback 😉

A deeper comparison is between Blyk’s campaigns and those run by existing mobile advertising companies, er, such as Yahoo. Blyk carefully crafted campaigns to engage their user base. The targeting was exact, and an actively negative response was as interesting as a positive one. You mean, you don’t want a new McWhopper with Mayonnaise? Really..? Even a free one..? It tells you a lot about both your product and your market.

I may be oversimplifying, but you need a profiled audience, a way of delivering a message, and a feedback mechanism. Blyk used text and photo messages as these were the ways that their audience were used to interacting on a mobile and elicited a 25% response rate – for sure, kicking things off with banners is unlikely to work as well – but it’s much cheaper if you have the audience..

So, what does it take to move from an advertising model that causes at best, indifference in most, to something that 25% of people love?


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