MEDIA BOMBSHELL: Killing the outrageous clickbait!

Not a rant, but an observation - and possibly a solution from us concerned citizens at Nectar & Co.

Reading anything online today, and ultimately the ads we make too (as they tend to follow journalistic trends), you can easily see what the goal of the millennium is. ‘Click City Central’ is the proverbial train station almost all journos and brands want people to get off at - everyone is obsessed with metrics, obsessed with tricking their audience into clicking this over that. Obsessed with the climax of seeing their views rise on releasing that newest article or campaign.

I guess we can’t blame people. Almost all online social interactions now have some sort of ‘like, click, upvote, heart, thumbs’ action attached. It’s burnt, seared, soled and rolled into our daily lives.

So off you trot, think about the news you read, just bring up your most recent news site/source/app/blog.

Click for shocking Kardashian nudes & bombshell allegations of chilling sexting.

Is that news? Is it? ** eye twitch commencing.

It’s not just trash fake news websites, it’s the big guys. They’re all doing it. News Limited, Fairfax. Even our local ‘independent’ newspapers still printed in mercury-laden ink (ok, maybe not that Mercury, but they’re old).

It’s print, it’s online, it’s TV. Whatever it is is completely and utterly awash with flagrant adjectives dispatched to trigger an impulse click (or thumb tap, whatever we’re calling those).

Examples of those icky adjectives:

  • **Bombshell**

  • **Shocking**

  • **Disgusting**

  • **Brutal**

  • **Unspeakable**

….The list goes on.

So why such a big deal?

Well, journalism (and marketing comms) used to be about quality content, creativity, thought provoking interest pieces, scandals (which were actually world-changing scandals, not amazing new diet fads and nip slips at the Logies, think Watergate) - or actual product features that could change people’s lives. Where we’ve ended up is more down the path, philosophically, of Shamwow.

In days gone by, the communications and journalistic approach meant something. Facts were checked, articles were written over weeks or months, not hours, marketing had realistic budgets attached and… AND, there certainly wasn’t any spelling mistakes or grammatical crimes against humanity in anything that was published - people lost their jobs over it, can’t say this won’t be the case for this blog post right here though. Perhaps this all happened because media was more permanent, but space-age editability shouldn’t mean we just give up caring, mash the keyboard, puch out and hope for the best.

The quality and substance has evaporated, and the focus has completely shifted towards views, clicks and impressions - but do these really mean more success? Not always. If it’s not about true, meaningful engagement with the content, but the micro-action attached to it then what does that mean for journos and marketers and what they’re creating?

On a marketing level, we’ve all seen campaign wrap reports where those responsible for the metrics and media claim brilliant and unfathomable success - JUST LOOK AT THE IMPRESSIONS. Often the clients response is “well that’s great Ian, but we didn’t really move any units and now our company is going into receivership” - then everyone in agency land melts back into obscurity and the safety of their Friday over-drinking.

What can be said for journos these days? I can only imagine the high fives that fire off around the offices of Australia’s most prominent online news outlets when ‘guys, everybody come and congratulate yourselves, the goal clicks for the Kardashian wardrobe malfunction article have been reached’. The older journos must be over-stirring their their Nescafe in disbelief.

So why is this relevant to brands?

It’s everything. Brands influence culture, but most often follow it. If all of our ideology around engagement with audiences (our current & future customers) is based on clicks, views and impressions - could we not be leading ourselves down a very vein path where all that matters is that whoever saw the ad micro-reacted to it, not what the work actually triggered in their mind, the thought it created, the feeling it gave them about the brand?

We’re absolutely working off the wrong success ideology. You might be able to correlate the journey from a quick fix click to a $150 sale, but can you honestly say that brands can equate that to longterm feelings about a brand? Does it create loyalty, or are we creating a generation of brand loyalty dissociatives. Customers who are promiscuous, and respond only to the loudest headline/image combo to award their sale. Help us all.

What’s the alternative?

Unplugging from metrics. Unplugging from Lord Google. At least for a little bit. Finding our customers in the real world (not our mates in the office, not our agencies, not our media partners) and speaking to them in person. Gain real insight about their wants, dreams and needs and find out what’s important to them in meaningful communications from brands. Something tells us it’s going to be more than just enjoyment from clicking.

Then, once we’ve lived in that world for a while, we come back and build content, campaigns and ads around what we felt and learnt. Not slipping back into our old clicky witchcraft ways. We focus on warming customers to our presence and providing them with what they want and need.

We must invite our customers into our homes like new friends who might come again if they like our company.

Now, back to our meaningful communications ponderings.

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John Paul Wager