Stop the Ad Block: Create Content Audiences Couldn’t Possibly Turn Off

With each passing generation, more and more consumers are tuning out traditional advertisements.

Just 16 percent of Millennials, 27 percent of Generation Xers, and 28 percent of Baby Boomers will hesitate to block or skip your carefully constructed ads, according to a Mirriad study. The rest feel no remorse about tuning you out.

Ad avoidance has been happening since hundred-pound TV sets made their way into living rooms across America. After all, what better time to head to the bathroom or grab a snack than during commercials? And with DVRs (51 percent of Millennials own them, according to Nielsen), streaming video on demand (SVOD), and the “mute” button, audiences everywhere are missing your message.

Of course, your ad sometimes plays whether watchers like it or not. No problem — 85 percent of internet users say they surf their other devices while watching TV anyway. If one screen doesn’t please them, they’ll just look at another.

Seem like a dire situation? All is not lost. Your ads may not be getting the attention they deserve, but you can change course by thinking like a media company, not an advertiser.

Reaching the Unreachables

It’s terribly disappointing to see statistics that suggest 70 percent of people binge-watch programs and most spend half the day — literally — with some form of media, all while repeatedly hitting the “skip” button on your content. The problem is that you are the interruption, not the main event.

But you don’t have to remain invisible if you’re willing to get creative with your content.

  1. Turn your company into a film character.

The movie was called “French Kiss,” a sweet story about an American in Paris and his beautiful love interest. Together, they played a cat-and-mouse game that took them around the City of Light. Far in the background of this cleverly constructed cinematic piece by executive producer David Beebe was the actual star of the show: Marriott Hotels.

Why would a hotel brand sink money into a short film? Marriott’s marketers recognized that they had to be the entree, not the take-it-or-leave-it hors d’oeuvres, if they wanted to win consumers’ attention.

Want to follow Marriott’s lead? Start with a production budget your brand can afford, and then add another 50 percent to come up with a total to promote a professional 15-minute short film. Be sure it’s written to engage your audience members, not hammer them with a promotion. Post your story on YouTube and other social media, and you could recoup your costs by licensing it to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

  1. Bring like-minded brands into the mix.

Why stop at one 15-minute video? If your film finds traction, piggyback on it with a partner project. For example, a luxury hotel brand like the Ritz-Carlton could team up with a luxury car brand such as Mercedes. Together, you’ll have more branding power than you would alone.

Consider 2016’s The Renewal Project, which covers social good and civic innovation across the nation. Allstate and The Atlantic were the brains behind the platform, but each ensured the message skirted around their brands rather than pummeling viewers with promotion. Similarly, Mini USA, Feeding America, and The Wall Street Journal launched Defy Hunger Together, a tour to raise awareness around hunger in the United States. Together, the groups shared stories of Americans facing food insecurity that viewers actually wanted to watch.

  1. Launch your own media company.

Red Bull could have been just any other energy drink. But it’s not, thanks to the incredible array of media it manages. From TV shows to documentaries to editorial content, Red Bull Media House now overshadows the soft-drink side of the brand. With investments in print, TV, digital, mobile, music, films, and even gaming, is it any wonder that Red Bull’s Facebook page has more than 48 million likes?

Of course, most companies aren’t set up to become media production houses. If that’s the boat your brand is in, it’s critical to seek a strategic partner. But choose carefully. Games and videos, in particular, can cost millions and take years to produce. For the right partner, look to an organization that can bring its own ideas to the table without squashing yours.

Content creation is a huge undertaking, which can be tough to swallow when you’re trying to keep the starving piggy bank from squealing. But consumers simply don’t sit through traditional ads anymore. Pivoting to modern media is the best way to get tuned-out consumers to give you a second look.

Adam Root is the senior vice president of strategy at Ackerman McQueen and interim chief operations officer at Marketing Zen. A multitalented entrepreneur, Adam co-founded SocialCentiv, now respondology, serving as its chief technology officer, chief operating officer, and head of product before exiting the company.

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