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I’ve seen TV commercials that made me laugh. The majority of radio commercials annoy me. Some print ads are rather interesting, most of them purely forgettable. The range of emotions when experiencing “traditional” advertising ranges from highly entertained/intrigued to annoyed. I was never angry a TV commercial interrupted my show, maybe annoyed, but not angry.

The range of emotions when experiencing “digital” marketing ranges from barely entertained to angry. Angry at the pop-ups, the take-overs, the obnoxiousness of advertisers to push their message right in front of my face.

Why is there such a huge difference in emotions between “traditional” and “digital” marketing?

Two reasons:

1) We have a contract with traditional media: You serve us ads and the content will be free/dramatically reduced in price. Sure, we try to do our best to get out of that contract (DVR, radio podcasts) but in general we’re fairly happy with the partnership.

No such contract exists between us and digital media. We don’t see ads underwriting anything. Does an ad on Facebook make the site better? Nope, it cheapens my experience. Does an ad on Yahoo’s homepage improve their content? Not that I know of, it just makes me want to leave the homepage as soon as possible. Marketers haven’t found an airtight value proposition for consumers to see ads as an underwriting proposition. Every time a brand serves up an ad, it reminds us that there’s no contract. No relationship, no reason not to get angry.

(And, most of the web ads are intended to be clicked, turning Digital Marketing into a whining and begging contest, turning even more people off.)

2) TV, Radio and Print are entertainment channels. Sure, there’s some educational and informational content but we use these channels to entertain us.

Digital is an entertainment channel. And an information channel. Most importantly, digital is a communication channel. Depending on your tasks at hand, the definition of digital as a channel changes by the minute for each of us. While my visit to Forbes.com might be my kind of entertainment (sad, I know), others are looking for information on the same site or want to communicate with other readers about a common topic. The reception changes dramatically in whatever mode I am:

– Information Seeking: Don’t even try to serve me an ad. I don’t want to see and hear it. I’m focused on my own information needs. Your intrusion makes my task at hand harder to accomplish.

– Communicating: Don’t you know the two of us are talking? Why do you have to bother us in the middle of a conversation? What do I have to do to get you out of my world?

– Ready to be entertained: What you got? Something funny? Something interesting? I’m watching a show/video but I don’t mind discovering something better.

Search Engine Marketing continues to be successful because it answered the need for information with relevant results. Banner advertising never took off because the Web is a hybrid channel and we have to guess constantly what mode people are in. Inserting messages into a communication and information environment doesn’t work. So far, it only works in an entertainment environment.

If digital marketing will ever grow up, it needs to develop a mutually beneficial contract and find new ways to message to people when they want to be informed and/or communicate. That’s why companies like Facebook and Twitter should take a step back and reconsider their advertising models. Applying a broken digital advertising model to a new platform still equals apathy, non-performance and angry people.

When you’ve figured out a way to shift digital advertising emotions to the range of traditional advertising,  please let me know. I’ll bet my house on you.