Why Interruptive Advertising Doesn’t Work

Guest Post by David Ioanne

I spend quite a bit of time these days riding public transportation.  As a result I have the opportunity to “engage” with many people. At the simplest level, others may acknowledge my existence and maybe even read whatever message is on my graphic tee shirt.  That I consider an impression.

But beyond the random impressions that may facilitate a conversation, it takes much more to tee up a conversation, let alone an engagement.

That said I enjoy conversing with random people.  But what if the people I sit next too are already engaged in a conversation or something other than me? I start to consider the ways I can break into the conversation or at least in to their consideration so I can eventually get into a conversation if that’s my objective.

In the traditional world of marketing I might try using a swift headline or pickup line.  Or if the opportunity didn’t present itself, I could just blurt out what it was I wanted to say.  And if they still didn’t engage, I’d sit there and repeat my message over and over until I got some sort of reaction.  This is the interruptive model.  Sure after that reaction, I may become part of a memorable story retold to others later on, but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t be in positive light.

The reality is, that most people we come across are very focused and entrenched in their own worlds.  Not until they need something do they look outside of their worlds.

I believe I have a lot to offer others in their worlds.  However, if I just blurt out what it is I think, chances are they won’t be overly receptive.  This is why I listen to the conversation first, wait for the right moment and then add value to the context.

The other day a group of four Millennials sat next to me in the train.  We all a good group laugh about something happening outside of the train, but that superficial rapport was not enough to let me into their deeper conversation.  I needed another reason for them to give me the time of day. After me asking a number of questions the guy in the group finally asked what it was that I do?

I told him that like the movie, Inception, I make ideas.  He hadn’t seen the movie yet, but asked me to give him an example of an idea as he struggled to open a banana. I replied “certainly”, then asked if I could share with him an alternative idea on how to open the banana. Confused, he answered “sure.” I then took the banana, flipped it upside down, pinched the nub and easily peeled back the skin.

“Wow” he exclaimed. “Thats a crazy idea..and it works better then the one I’ve always used.” After this engagement he actually really wanted to know what it was I did. Prior to that engagement, he was soley asking to be polite since I asked him so many questions. And even then, it took 20 mins of semi-active participation on my part to get any sort of acknowledgement.

Point is that I I had not engaged, and had just thrown my message out there is a good chance that it would not have been received and had any impact.

Imagine if I told him how to peel a banana before he had thought about peeling the banana.  By the time he peeled he maybe would have forgotten what I said or just decided to do it his own way instead.  From a reach standpoint I would have made an impression, but from an action standpoint my message wouldn’t have been as effective and the good idea would be lost in translation or reception. That’s because the time and place of the message as well the delivery – while interruptive – would have been dissruptive and my new approach to peeling a banana may not have been enough to trigger a future action.  It definitely would not have helped my objective in engaging in a conversation beyond peeling bananas when he wasn’t even thinking about bananas.

Marketing ideas are no different.  Not only do ideas and messages need to be the right message at the right time, but they need to be delivered in the right way for the right audience if they are going to have an impact and cause action.

While content may be king, and marketing may be queen – context is the joker that can steal the crown.  Engagement is key to keeping the crown safe.

Boo interruptive marketing. Hooray engagement marketing!!

David Ioanne is a Digital Integration Strategist at Colangelo, a Connecticut-based digital marketing firm. He lives in New York City.  David is a member of Brand Amplitude’s Millennial Marketing “Super Consumer” Market Research Community. Follow him on Twitter as @ravin_dave. This post originally appeared as a comment in response to an earlier post, “What Millennial Marketers Can Learn From A Corset Maker” on the importance of adding value through marketing. David has graciously allowed me to reprint his insights as a post.