Human behavior is deeply-ingrained. We don’t change easily. Not even when other people really think we should. Not even when the rewards for changing are truly compelling.
Here’s the thing about people on their phones.
We H A T E being interrupted.
This isn’t likely to change — and that goes double if the incentive is the “privilege” to consume ads.
Who wouldn’t hate being interrupted while they’re on their phone? It’s rude. It disrupts your train of thought. As much as we hated being interrupted on our old phones, they hate it even more when we’re on our smartphones. One of the reasons we’re willing to pay a hefty monthly bill is because our smartphones save us time. When our phones start costing us time, well, that’s enough to make us crazy.
But What About Mary Meeker’s Slide?
No disrespect meant to Ms. Meeeker. I look forward to her presentations every year. But, in this case her slide misses the point by a long shot.
It assumes that time spent on a mobile phone is like time spent with a magazine. In fact, in its dominant modality, time spent with a mobile is the exact opposite.
The primary modality of a magazine is that we use it to kill time: this is why the main place you see magazines is in waiting rooms or on an airplane.
The primary modality of a smartphone is that we use it to SAVE time. There is a huge difference, and if you plan to invest in mobile ad tech (or mobile advertising), you ignore user behavior at your own peril.
If you’re investing in mobile, by far the smartest bet is to bet on experiences that amplify existing behaviors. Instead of interrupting people, the real money is in helping people do what they’re trying to do. This leverages mobile’s dominant modality. It also makes you a nicer and smarter person.
Still, There’s Opportunity In The Secondary Mobile Modality
The funny thing about mobile is that in its dominant modality, we use it to save time. In its secondary modality, the goal is to kill time: in that mode we want to be entertained. Once you find out your flight has been delayed (again) and have checked alternatives online (again) and you realize you’re stuck at the airport (again) , it’s Angry Birds time.
Interrupting people’s entertainment is still tough to pull off, but at least it’s possible to do well. In-game banners promoting other games makes sense.
Better yet, I think there’s an emerging opportunity for advertisers or media owners to invent entirely new forms of time-killing media, tailored specifically for mobile. We should be thinking hard about what people need and want when they’re in this mode and work from there.
Smartphones deserve smarter advertising. The companies that get there first will reap the rewards.
Photo: Angry Phone Guy