If companies treated customers as humans, would advertising exist?
Such is a question posed by Ross Popoff-Walker in a fascinating article at TalentZoo.com. He argues advertising needs reform–through user experience design.
For decades we’ve been saturated with marketing messages from all angles and channels. Messaging that is surface-y rather than cerebral, comical rather than emotional, and usually based on popular cultural symbols, rather than deeper human truths. What we really long for as individuals are meaningful connections — emotional, personal, and significant moments.
Imagine I like to buy widgets and you sell them.
Forget about social media. Despite everything your marketing directors and IT consultants told you about creating a Facebook page or listening to Twitter chatter or building websites, you’ll never find me since I don’t use those channels.
How will you find me so you can sell me those widgets I want to buy?
Do you advertise? I don’t mean the Yellow Pages or municipal tourism brochures. I don’t even refer to the very successful counter-top business directories seen at diners and local grease spoons that the kitchen plate might be served on.
How about billboard ads? And, no, I don’t mean those mammoth highway signs that I whiz past at 70 miles an hour. I refer to relevant advertising, like what I wrote about last fall regarding television.
One example you could use to sell me your widgets is straight out of Singapore, where scientists are developing gender-tracking software for merchandise panels. (Think of an LCD screen that rotates advertisements in Times Square, but something you’d see in a supermarket or an indoor mall.)
The idea is a panel could be outfitted with a camera that detects facial pixels and, depending on the gender looking at the panel, presents relevant ads. If you’re Procter and Gamble and want to sell men’s deodorant and women’s body soap to the respective genders, you now can.
It’s the same stuff I wrote five months ago about camera-outfitted merchandise panels:
The next time you enter a mall, health club, gym, or supermarket, pay attention to LCD screens with ads, which may be using technology called face-based audience measurement to track your gender with an accuracy of 90 percent.
Imagine selected items in your cart are also seen by the hidden camera. Eeriness aside, if you’re a woman and you always buy milk, eggs, and butter by certain manufacturers, wouldn’t it be effective merchandising on behalf of the company to save you time and stock gender-friendly items in the same place?
If the concept of smart billboard advertising is familiar to you, National Public Radio’s Laura Sydell reported in 2002 about a California advertising program that tracked automobile “antenna leakage” and displayed relevant ads on adjacent billboards. (I can’t find links about the program today, so if you know something I don’t, please leave a comment below.)
I’m happy with smart advertising if it is relevant to me. If you’re a company and you send me pieces of direct mail, I’ll glance at it for 30 seconds and toss it in my recycling bin. I rarely watch TV commercials. And web banners are losing eyeballs. But meaningful advertisements, such as turning on a TV or walking through a mall or driving past a billboard and seeing something that based on xyz criteria, may attract my attention and lead me to buy (or blog about liking).
Treat me as a number and I 99% guarantee I won’t buy from you. Treat me as a name and I’m halfway there. Make me relevant to your ad campaign and you have my vote of confidence.