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January 28, 2013
Digital Is People, Too
 
We wanted to watch an online video news clip. So we clicked. And we were forced to sit through a Cadillac commercial. Ugh. 
 
But you know what? we thought. Not this time. We'll move onto some other content on this site and skip the video. So we move our mouse over the bottom of the video to stop the commercial. But there's no way to stop it. There's no pause or stop button.
 
So we clicked off the site. Not the video. The site. Gone. We'll find that content elsewhere.
 
This incredibly entertaining (!) anecdote is not simply about a website risking loss of traffic by pushing (a keyword here) ads down a visitor's throat. It's about something bigger than that. It's about intentionally creating a negative user experience. It's about ignoring what the Internet is all about.
 
Yes, we know advertising will find us online. Everywhere online. But when we click to watch a video, we want to watch the video, not a commercial. But sites (i.e., brands) don't care, as exploding online video ad revenues prove. (Online video was the fastest growing ad format in 2012 with nearly 55% growth — eMarketer, January 2012). So online marketers are putting themselves before the consumer. Again. And it's turning the Internet into another interruptive media experience. Simply, that makes it a less positive experience than could be.
 
It does something else too. It takes the control out of our hands and into the marketer’s. Does that sound like the social-media landscape to you? Hasn’t SM become embedded into our lives because we’re the ones in control?
 
Deutsch's David Van Praet raises another really good point in a new FastCoCreate piece. Just by using the word "consumer," marketers are making a huge mistake. They're assuming that stimulating consumption should be their goal, instead of improving people's lives. 
 
Bad idea? Skeptical that helping people can make money? Okay, see "Apple, Cupertino, CA." 
 
Should consumers be worried about their desired content taking a back seat? We say yes. Digital- and social-media measurement techniques improve continually, and they provide the rationale for the integrated marketing programs that reach out and touch us — unwelcome as some of those touches might be. So marketers likely will continue to step over the fine line between strategic engagement and advertising overkill. 
 
But there is hope, saddened, worried "consumer." Some of us remember that it's the person who comes first. Maybe we should all remember to remind each other about that.

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Robert Calvanico is Client Services Director for Living Group, a London-based integrated digital and branding agency. He leads the Living team's New York office. Robert has held management positions at agencies such as Euro RSCG, Cossette Post and Blue Fountain. He is a passionate sports fan and music lover, and lives in Tribeca, New York City.
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