Here we are; now, entertain us

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There are 7 million new blog posts published online each day. 720,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every 24 hours. 95 million photos shared on Instagram daily. To be succinct: there’s an overwhelming amount of digital content being generated every second of every day. And yet, there’s constant demand for more! Media consumption is keeping pace with prolific content generation, and it’s changing the way advertisers think about reaching their target audiences. 

To understand the effect this never-ending stream of content has on advertising efficacy, we need to approach it from a consumption standpoint. How has the breakneck speed of content creation and the vast breadth of choices influenced media consumption habits?

At JXM, we’re constantly observing the key drivers behind engagement. What we’re increasingly finding is that the right message, in the right medium, to the right audience isn’t enough anymore. To stand apart—to capture conversions—you also need to entertain. 

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The era of X-tainment

Infotainment. Edutainment. Advertainment. No, we’re not making up words—these are all terms associated with the modern-day trend of wrapping information, education, advertisement (and just about anything else) in entertainment. The idea is simple: get people interested and excited, and they’ll pay attention long enough to absorb the information veiled as entertainment. 

It’s sort of like putting your dog’s medication in a piece of cheese. 

X-tainment isn’t necessarily a malicious strategy; rather it’s the product of how media consumption habits have changed. People spend more time consuming more media than ever before, but they’re getting it in shotgun bursts: 280-characters, 30-second videos, and endless micro-impressions. This isn’t enough time for people to be well-informed and -educated or advertised effectively—but it is enough time to be entertained. 

Advertisers have begun to recognize this potential of entertainment as a Trojan Horse. People will stop scrolling for seconds of entertainment—and with any luck, they’ll walk away exposed to the message wrapped within it.

Amusing ourselves to death?

In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, media educator Neil Postman asserts the idea that all content is entertainment. Specifically, he theorizes that “form limits message, and that a particular medium can only sustain a particular level of ideas.” In other words, while we might have an endless stream of new content daily, that content isn’t capable of doing anything other than amusing us.  

So why not hop on the X-tainment train? If the speed at which content is produced and consumed prohibits it from being anything other than entertainment, doesn’t it make sense to appeal to this function? Leading with intent to entertain paves inroads into delivering a message that truly resonates with its audience. 

There’s perhaps no better proof of concept than Super Bowl ads. More often than not, these ads are explicitly designed to generate entertainment buzz first and sell a product second. 

Take Reebok’s 2003 Super Bowl ad featuring Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Other than mentioning the name of the brand, not a single product was advertised: no shoes, apparel or branded accessories. Yet, it’s widely considered one of the most successful ad campaigns in Super Bowl history, ranking right up there with the revolutionary “1984 advertisement” for Apple, which is equally as ambiguous, yet nonetheless revered. 

We love these ads not for what they sell, but because of the attention they command. We laugh at Terry Tate and marvel at the sledgehammer-throwing woman tearing down the machine. Then, we buy Reebok shoes and Apple iPhones. 

Doing our best P.T. Barnum impression

With so much content out there, the question becomes less about how to entertain people and more about how to actually get the chance to entertain them. At JXM, we believe this comes down to timing: reaching people where they are and delivering a message that satisfies their need for a solution in an engaging way.

  • Concepts that appeal to an audience beyond surface-level demographic information. 
  • Eye-catching creative that makes people stop and explore what they’re seeing.
  • Snappy and witty copy that doesn’t simply seek to command or direct the viewer.
  • Thoughtful ad placement that commands attention, without intrusion or disruption.

The intent is always to generate conversions and ROI, but the approach is always to entertain as the means to that end. It’s an approach that offers the audience incentive to engage and rewards them with a solution for their attention. Or, to quote famed circus master P.T. Barnum, “as a general thing, I have not ‘duped the world’ nor attempted to do so—I have generally given people the worth of their money twice told.

Are you not entertained?

In many ways, sales and entertainment are polar opposites. People hate being sold to, but they love being entertained. Advertisers who can inexplicably link the two are capable of undermining form with function. That is to say, they can leverage entertainment to generate sales.

There’s a virtual smorgasbord of content out there, with fresh takes added every second. In the time it took you to read this article, tens of thousands of blogs, photos, videos, social posts and the like have been added to the internet. And, eventually, you’ll contribute your own content. The question is: will it be entertaining enough to solicit the response you expect it to?

If you’re stuck trying to combine advertising with entertainment and pushing out content that gets lost in the mix, reach out to JXM. We’ll help you make sure all eyes are on your ads, no matter how crowded and competitive the arena is.