consumer trends retail

The Power of Choice is Rekindling the Connection Between Consumers and Marketers

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Today’s media experience is as unique as the fingerprints once used to unlock our smartphones.   Technology has enabled the advent of avatars, queues, playlists, social media feeds, and subscriptions that can be entirely curated by us, the end user. As a result, it is not a stretch to say that everyone experiences media differently, based on their explicit preferences and implicit behaviors. What’s more, the choices for content and ways to access it are seemingly endless, often at the touch of a button or simple voice command. 

Of course, all this choice and access comes at a price. Our expectations as consumers of products, services, and media are now outsized, and anything less than instant gratification is often the subject of scorn. Relatedly, anything deemed irrelevant, or disruptive to that instant gratification, is likely to be cast aside or actively avoided. 

With this new paradigm in mind, it can be jarring to experience advertising that is tone-deaf to these new expectations that have been shaped through this highly self-selected world we live in. Subjecting someone to the same commercial pod multiple times during a 30-minute episode should be a relic of our “Big Three” network TV past, and yet the practice persists on OTT streaming apps, along with retargeting tactics on digital channels that might enhance some numbers on a spreadsheet but often serve to annoy the end user.  

Striking a balance between personalization and monetization is not easy for publishers and tech companies — that much is certain. But ignoring this massive sea change in how media is consumed and how the expectations of end users have evolved is likely to end with another choice: that of people avoiding your media properties entirely. 

Give consumers control over their media experiences

As with any change, opportunities to respond are plenty, and they start with control. The simple gesture of offering an end user the ability to exert at least some level of control over their advertising experiences is a step in the right direction. 

A 2021 study by MAGNA & Brave indicated that if people could control their ad load online, 81% reported they would consider taking positive steps that are good for the advertising industry, including using more ad-supported websites without paying for content (66%), supporting brands they see ads from (61%), and even spending more time online (60%). One way to do this is to offer opt-in formats, such as video, where an ad load is controlled by the end user via a click or tap. 

Another method gaining popularity is the ability to self-select which ads you view in exchange for access to content. One example could be a chain of hotels offering getaways to ski resorts, islands, and cities and allowing the viewer to choose the destination that best suits their travel interests. 

A June 2021 Hub Research survey indicates that 28% of respondents would pay more attention to ads they had an opportunity to choose, which was the most popular response behind earning rewards to watch ads or shorter/fewer ad breaks, both of which would add costs for publishers. Further, research published in the journal Psychology & Marketing found that “media that allow for self-selected experiences, where perceived interest in an ad is the basis for attention to it, were evaluated much more favorably than more intrusive advertising media.”

Even something as simple as adding a QR code to a CTV or print ad provides the potential for engagement beyond the passive nature of each medium, allowing the end user the opportunity to take further action based on their initial interest. 

The road to persuasive personalization in advertising begins with a choice; either let the end user exert some control over their experience, or don’t. As we’ve seen, the evidence supports the former route in nearly every case. 
Jim Johnson is vice president of account planning at