Commentary: Broadband and the Lost Art of Seduction

Here's a Chance to Stop Treating Your Audience as 'Just Friends'

Published on .

Who reading this likes to be interrupted? When was the last time you thanked someone for interrupting you? We put up with it from children because they don't know any better, but from adults we expect more. Yet we have built an industry around interruption. We interrupt our customers right in the middle of their leisure time -- their "me time." So it's no surprise we have trained them to ignore us.
Simon Assaad and David Carson, co-founders of, want marketers to seduce, not interrupt, their audience.
Simon Assaad and David Carson, co-founders of, want marketers to seduce, not interrupt, their audience.

If we're going to connect, we have to stop interrupting people to talk about ourselves. We need to listen and engage. We need to be seductive.

Seduction is a lost art. Seducing someone means paying attention to them, exciting and inspiring them, igniting a passion. You might think we're crazy, but consider this: Search is seductive. Search shows enormous respect and understanding of the audience -- it effectively and efficiently taps our consumers' needs and desires for instant, on-demand information.

How to Woo the Audience

But while search can never sweep you off your feet, entertainment can. If search is the equivalent of "I like you, but only as a friend," entertainment is a reciprocal seduction, tapped by the consumer for their personal enjoyment. What marketer doesn't aspire to that -- to be selected by the consumer for their own personal enjoyment? And if consumers fall in love with you, they'll tell their friends about you and pay attention when you have something more to say.

And consumers are creating some of that entertainment themselves. Consumers are now making their own entertainment, and, even better, they have a distribution outlet on the internet so that millions of people can engage in their creations. That should be incredibly seductive for a marketer. This is your opportunity to love them back by paying attention to the entertainment they create for themselves. Now you're seducing each other!

We tried to do that with Burger King, asking the Heavy audience to make movies with The King as a character. No interruptive ads or commercials. The audience-made videos were the ads. Burger King paid attention to the audience, which made the audience pay attention to Burger King (it takes two to tango). Our other favorite non-commercials? Trojan Games, a racy little "sports" site created to launch Trojan's condom brand in the U.K. Or the Virgin Digital music game that asks people to find 65 band names that are somehow represented in a picture -- the "Where's Waldo" for the music set. People even collaborated on Flickr to solve the puzzle.

Standard Techniques of Seduction

Surprise -- there are none. There is a new advertising unit created every day on the internet -- not by our industry, but by the audience co-opting our brands, trademarks and creative, realizing it as their own and sharing it with their peers. Standard advertising units do not define such investment. Innovation defines it. And innovation is seductive.

Traditionally there has been an enormous divide between editorial and advertising, between church and state. This has enabled "editorial integrity" as well as clearly defined formats for publishers and marketers to work within. In the broadband environment the audience has grown up on an integration of church and state, and doesn't see the distinction between the two. Paris Hilton sells as much as Smirnoff is, and the audience understands that the only real difference is the entertainment value each provides.

Activision understood this when they created a show based on its new video game, "Gun." What resulted was a comedy called "The Tourettes Cowboy." More than 8 million streams later, our programming team is now turning it into a weekly series. Smirnoff had similar success with its "Tea Partay" video, produced by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. The video snagged 1.3 million YouTube views in its first two months.

Return on Seduction: Broadband vs. Almighty TV

The economics of seduction are substantially more valuable than that of interruption. In a TV environment a commercial has one shot to find its audience, and the window that commercial has is a blip in time -- 30 seconds. To make up for its diminutive lifespan, we mass-produce it and plant it everywhere in the vain hope that if we manufacture enough blips in time they will add up to something. In the time that you just read this paragraph millions of blips have died a terrible lonely death and there's nothing we can do about it. They're gone.

But if I go back to a website the same branded message that existed 30 seconds ago is still there. If the branding is integrated into the environment, or better yet is the environment, it will live for weeks. And if the branded messaging is truly seductive -- that is, entertaining -- it could live for years. Not only that, but there is no need to buy another unit of seduction until someone has seen the first one, guaranteed. While interruption is a game of chance, seduction is a game of certainty.

As broadband scales, it provides the reach that TV provides, with the certainty of delivery, and far superior engagement. Ten million 18- to 34-year-old guys watching the Burger King videos on represent scale, targeting, seduction and a boatload of engagement.

In short, knowing your audience's passions will provide opportunity and insight to create engaging and seductive conversations. Creating such a conversation without screaming, yelling or interrupting -- now that is the lost art of seduction.

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Simon Assaad and David Carson are the co-founders of
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