Don’t assume the audience likes you or your fancy new ad unit

An article at Advertising Age looks at five new video ad formats. The piece includes a segment that tries to outline the value proposition of new video ad features. As you’ll see, the line of thought walks along for a bit, but then closes with an unrealistic leap:

There’s a pattern: As ad prices on display ads dip, more publishers turn to video because video ads typically command higher prices. If display ad prices dip more, perhaps publishers will look to offer even more expensive video ad formats to their advertisers. Viewers, the thinking goes, may find these interactive elements more enjoyable.

Let’s take it sentence by sentence:

“There’s a pattern: As ad prices on display ads dip, more publishers turn to video because video ads typically command higher prices.”

Fair enough. Traditional display advertising is a commoditized mess.

“If display ad prices dip more, perhaps publishers will look to offer even more expensive video ad formats to their advertisers.”

Presumably. Yes. Although it’s not quite that simple. Video requires investment in skills and tools and equipment. Creating the ads associated with those videos require investment as well. You can’t put your current ad expenditure up against this new stuff and expect it to match up exactly. But for the sake of argument, I can accept that publishers will embrace video ad formats that bring in higher fees.

“Viewers, the thinking goes, may find these interactive elements more enjoyable.”

Now I’m lost. Assuming viewers will just sort of enjoy advertising is a reach. No, check that. It’s a mistake.

An ad is enjoyable if it serves the viewer/reader/user in some way. The format is secondary to the content. Layering fancy interactive tools over videos doesn’t make anything “enjoyable.”

Here’s why this really bugs me: If you cannot legitimately extend your value proposition to the audience, you don’t have a value proposition. The audience is the most important part of the advertising equation. You have nothing without it.

We — and by “we” I mean anyone who creates content that’s meant to be consumed by other people — cannot make the audience an afterthought. We can’t diminish these folks. We can’t think they’re a blob or a mass that exists to be manipulated.

What we need to do is build the things that help people do something or feel something or learn something. An interactive element that brings in more revenue is good for the publisher. An interactive element that gives the viewer something is good for everyone involved.