Villing & Company

Unskippable DVD Previews and How You Too Can Ruin Effective Advertising

I grabbed a bag of hot popcorn out of the microwave and settled back onto the couch. I had just received a new DVD from NetFlix and my wife and I were planning to enjoy a quiet evening at home. Ready to jump right in, I slid the DVD into the player and pushed play. After informing me that copying movies is very, very naughty, and that by allowing the following photons to hit my retinas I've entered into some sort of agreement with the FBI, I assume the movie's ready to begin.

I'm mistaken.

Instead, I'm treated to two or three studio animations, followed by three or four previews for video games and coming attractions. These aren't short 30-second previews either; on a recent DVD, there was 10-15 minutes of previews.

For the first minute or so, I kept frantically hitting the "DVD Menu" button on my remote. No luck. The studio had made this "experience" unskippable.

This scenario has played out frequently in recent months and the previews have grown longer and less relevant each time. Since I watch movies on my 42-inch computer monitor, I simply mute the sound, minimize the movie and do other things while I'm waiting it out. However, by the time the movie is ready to start, I'm overflowing with hatred for the movie studios. On many occasions, I've threatened that I should go back to pirating movies rather than hassling with legitimate rentals.

And that's the problem.

In an effort to rescue their dying business model, the movie studios and music labels have spent the last decade cultivating a culture of mutual disrespect. By using DRM, invasive copy protection and, more recently, lengthy unskippable advertising, they've done nothing but frustrate their paying customers.

Why should I feel bad about withholding the $1.00 I would have paid at Redbox, when the movie studio has no problem stealing 15 minutes of my valuable time before I can watch the movie?

The crazy thing is, most people enjoy movie trailers. As marketing tools go, the movie trailer may be the most beloved. If the studios included skippable previews at the beginning of the DVD, many people would probably let them run. It's only this kind of heavy-handedness that has squandered the public's good will.

As marketers, we can learn from the bad example set by the movie and music industries. Rather than treating your customers or clients with suspicion, consider treating them with respect. It might be as simple as adding a "skip intro" button on your Flash intro or as complex as making your site accessible for your customers with disabilities.

Maybe it means including prices on your website rather than forcing people to call. When they do call, maybe you should shorten your automated phone message so customers can access the menu more quickly, rather than suffering through a lengthy sales pitch each time.

Perhaps you should guard the emails of your conference attendees, rather than selling the list indiscriminantly (I'm looking at you SXSW). Shining the light on ourselves, maybe agencies should do a better job training clients to be more effective marketers/designers/developers, rather than being overprotective of our "turf."

It all comes down to the Golden Rule: treat your customers the way you expect them to treat you. Most people are good and loyal customers, until you start treating them as if they aren't.

Filed Under: advertising

Villing & Company

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