I have a new friend who won’t let me talk over him.
To be clear, I don’t want to talk over him, but I’ve found that occasionally, we’re both speaking at once. An awkward experience, indeed. But even more awkward is the realization that I’ve interrupted him, and he wants to finish his thought.
Above all, though, I’m most struck by the irony: I’m the number one vocal advocate for the death of interrupt advertising. No one pushes for the downfall of intrusive ads like I do, and here I am, realizing I’m no better than a noisy pop-up that won’t close.
Here’s how I got myself into this predicament.
A natural evangelist, I’m enthusiastic to a fault. If someone is describing their first experience with an awesome new product, I’ll jump in and finish their thoughts out of exuberant agreement. If a fellow parent describes the conflicting feelings of a growing family, I can’t help but commiserate aloud before she’s even gotten to her point. Worst of all is when I see a buddy searching for a word. Watch out, friend, because words are my strength, and I’m here to help.
The only thing is . . . sometimes it’s best not to “help.”
Image attribution: University of Seville
So. My new buddy’s refusal to pipe down when I interrupt has illuminated the fact I’m a bit of a (sorry, self) loudmouth. While at first the lesson discouraged me, in time the new perspective gave me an odd sort of compassion for enterprises trying to reroute their own ad spend to stop interrupting audiences. And without getting too mindbendingly meta, here’s what marketers can learn from a recovering motormouth.
First, I’m sorry, everyone. I promise I didn’t mean to interject.
While my motives are pure, it’s an egocentric thing to do. In fact, there’s a whole psychological science devoted to the effects of being interrupted.
Communication catalyst Marion Grobb Finkelstein says being on the receiving end of an interruption can feel frustrating, maddening, and even discouraging. “The end result? Your relationship suffers,” she writes. “You feel a great sense of disconnect toward this person, perhaps even anger and resentment.”
If that sounds rough, remember, she’s talking about the effects of being interrupted by a colleague here, a buddy. Not a brand. In a time when trust in businesses is already in an awkward state of shrinkage, you can safely draw the conclusion that an interruption from a for-profit enterprise brand evokes an even less favorable response. Here’s why.
An influx of input stimuli piles onto a person’s cognitive load, according to management and leadership trainers at MindTools. The working memory can only hold so much information at once, and too much sensory input can lead to your target’s overwhelm, confusion, and even avoidance. And as noted in Advertising and Branding: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications, if a brand is the source of the increased cognitive load, then consumers’ attitudes toward the brand can take a quick downturn, rarely to recover.
Image attribution: Courtney Carmody
In Games User Research: A Case Study Approach, edited by Dr. Miguel Angel Garcia-Ruiz, video gamers are invited to describe how they feel when faced with an interrupt marketing message mid-game. Listen to how one video gamer describes his experience: “The advertising makes me angry. Sometimes when I lose in the game I just want to try again faster, but I find advertising, and this somehow makes me angry.” The participant is being honest, even though he can’t explain why he feels angst when targeted by intrusive ads. The same gamer goes on to say that to cope, he does his best to ignore the advertising.
Another participant says, “. . . an ad pops up every time, and I hate it, because I have to press the X to close it, and sometimes I can’t press it and I press the ad. It is irritating.” And perhaps most eye-opening of all gamer contributions, “I do not like advertisements in games because they can change your mood completely when playing . . .” a sentiment that should hit like a gut punch to any brand tempted to wedge in between someone and the activities they love.
Since my revelation, I’ve gotten over the embarrassment and learned a thing or two.
Image attribution: evanrudemi
And since my lessons apply directly to empathetic marketers, I’m sharing them with you.
I can’t wait to be a better friend in the future. Enthusiasm is not a crime, but I’m so glad to learn there’s a more productive way to channel my energy. When life is made up of relationships, I’ll take every lesson I can get.
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Featured image attribution: Eric Kilby