It’s no secret that I don’t like interruption marketing. I’m not silly enough to think that it can be done away with but I’d like it to disrupt my life as little as possible. 

I thought that the few radio ads that literally make me leap up to change the channel were annoying but I’m being driven to distraction by the Mercedes-Benz ad on the NZ Herald iPhone App. I get most of my daily news from this App, and check it out a few times a day. For the last couple of days, I’ve been occasionally hijacked on my way to an article by this dreary Mercedes-Benz ad; it’s the same ad every single time, and who knows how many times per day it pops up. 

That’s no different to seeing the same ad on the TV a few times a night or hearing repeats on the radio, I hear you say. Even the NZ Herald website has the same banner ads up all day. True, but this is the only ad I’m being presented with by the App, I have zero choice as to whether I want to see it, and unless I’m extra speedy and click the X to close it down, I have to stare at it regardless. 

The equivalent would be a magazine that won’t let you turn the page until you’ve looked at the ad…the same ad over and over. Or a radio station where you actually have to stroll over to the radio to push a button before the ad goes away and the music starts playing.

Even novice webmasters know that it’s not a great idea to serve the same banner ad to a user too often – in a forum environment for example, where a user may view the site hundreds of times a month. This is why ad server software has options to limit this repetitious behavior, but even a banner advert isn’t repeatedly hijacking the entire site and forcing the user to ogle it. Yes, I know that type of online campaign exists, but the hijack should happen once and once only. After that, the website owners and the client should accept that users have had their share of pure, unadulterated, infuriating, interruption for the moment, so the site should default to the standard banners or sidebars for all future visits. If it doesn’t, it bloody well should.

So what’s with the NZ Herald App? It either doesn’t know that I’m the same guy who just saw that advert three times in five minutes, or it doesn’t care. It should know who I am and it should give a hoot that I’m being relentlessly served. I’m not in the market for a Merc so spare me okay? If I were, would shoving the message in my face so intrusively make me happy to contemplate a Merc? I doubt it. This may well be a good deal, I neither know nor care, but I do know that enough is enough.

It’s a good lesson for marketers to learn – if you’re planning on interrupting the consumer, go for it, but be careful. You’ll build more resentment than goodwill with behaviour like the Mercedes-Benz agency is displaying. Don’t believe me? Here are some comments posted on Mazda New Zealand’s Facebook page earlier this year in response to an advert that ran on the NZ Herald website:

I hate your advert. There is nothing more annoying than an advert that interrupts what you are doing to sell its product. I would rather welcome a football teams worth of Jahovas witness into my home for tea and a chat first thing in the morning... All I know now is I hate your car.

I will never buy a mazda. How dare you destroy my reading pleasure with your puerile ad.

This Mazda ad in the NZ Herald would be the most frustrating bloody thing to deal with a sure way to "drive" future Mazda owners away. Another clever marketing ploy insert Tui Ad

Could you please modify your ad on the Herald website. It is very annoying to be reading an article and find it is moved down the page by your ad which I do not want to read right now. Certainly puts me off any product advertised in this way. I suggest the hits you are getting are people looking for your complaints area!

Your ad is a pain in the ass when i am trying to read the herald.

Your adverts on the Nzherald website are very annoying and I think many many people will be put off your vehicles by them!
I am surprised you are still using them unmodified after earlier complaints.
For every complaint you get 1000's of people will feel the same but will not be bothered complaining.
Listen to your customers! This is what social media is all about.

Ouch! Just a few more complaints would get Mazda into the Top Ten of The Advertising Standards Authority’s list of the most complained about ads in New Zealand. Considering that complaints to the ASA are generally about ads that people consider truly offensive, with nudity, sexual references or those making fun of Jesus Christ, the response to Mazda’s campaign is impressive (in an astonishingly bad way).

The last poster above is entirely correct by the way; for everyone who’s fired up enough to complain, there are thousands who’ll just allow their frustrations to seethe, but they’re likely to remember them down the track. What was Mazda’s response to the complaints? A few of the posts were graced with a comment like this:
Hey, sorry to hear you’re not a fan of the ad. We’ve had a lot of great responses and tons of people clicking through to find out more about the new CX-5. Thanks for getting in touch though, the big pop up ad is only running once more to make sure everyone who’s into getting more info on the new Mazda CX-5 doesn’t miss out!

If that’s the state-of-the-art in online advertising from two major corporate players, then I’m fearful for the future. There has to be a better way.