Advertising with a Human Touch Will Win

In the advertising industry we sometimes lose track of the fact that consumers aren’t users;  they are human beings.  They’re not an audience that wants to be shouted at with no input. The best brands know this. They treat their customers with respect online and off.  That means they don’t foist ads on customers at inappropriate times. It means they use every customer interaction as a way to help a consumer rather than bludgeon her.

As a real life example of how a successful brand operates I offer you Starbucks, one of the most beloved brands of this century and the last. I have been to Starbucks all over the world, and am always treated as if I mattered.

Can that be translated to online behavior? Shouldn’t it be?

This morning I ordered from my usual Starbucks using my mobile app. I frequent the same store every day, and they know me. I used to order in person, but now I order online. I order the same drink every day. This could mean I’m no longer a face, just a data point. A “Doppio” at 6:30 AM.

This morning I changed my order.  With a typical brand, this factoid might go into a database somewhere, and be part of a later calculation. But Starbucks is different because there’s still a human interface, and my deviant behavior  apparently threw my baristas into an existential crisis.  Had I made an error? Or was this a real change? They responded by preparing two drinks: the one I had ordered and my “usual” drink. I could not have been more impressed. Clearly I’m not a data point to Starbucks, even though my commerce with them has increasingly become digital.

Let’s take this with us into the world of in-app advertising. When someone is using an app — to play a game, to pass the time, or to pursue a passion, an in-app ad can be distracting and unwelcome.

But we’ve developed a form of interactive sponsorship that can be part of whatever the player is doing at the time, will help rather than interrupt them, and will also help an advertiser who wants branding that’s remembered. We think this is a fair exchange for game players that is not just one-sided.

This is not easy to do, and has involved years of research into changing consumer sentiment about online advertising.  We have learned from industry organizations, from discussions with thought leaders, and with tests on consumers.

As a result, we do none of the things with our formats that consumers hate about advertising: we do not retarget, we do not track, and we do not hold data. Instead, we try to offer online visitors a fair exchange for their time and attention.  It isn’t technology that governs our ad formats, it is respect for humanity.