A newly launched ad-tech company called Dokane Dokane Ad (DD AD) introduced a new advertising solution in Dhaka: putting screens in retail stores for showing ads. The company calls the service digital retail advertising and defines itself as “a digital in-store advertising platform that makes promotion in retail shops easier and more analytical.” DDAD partners with retail stores to put digital screens in these shops and use technology to enable brands to run ads on these screens.
Marketers have always sought to fill the empty slots in the days of potential customers. Social media channels are a testament to the idea that we have far more free time than we previously realized. Facebook and other social networks have found ways to occupy those free times and make people scroll mindlessly and watch ads in the name of entertainment and connections.
DD AD sees when people are purchasing grocery items, they have some free time that they could use watching some more ads. How DD AD works: the company partners with retail stores, currently has 50 stores across 7 locations on the DDAD platform, to put digital screens in these stores. And then allows brands to run video ads on these screens using DD AD technology.
Running ads in retail stores is not a new thing. Banners and posters have always been there. What is new about DDAD, however, is that it allows brands to automatically run ads without leaving their offices, you login into the DDAD platform, select stores and location, and run your ads. Moreover, DDAD allows brands to see how many people have entered the retail shop during the time an ad was played using DDAD devices, which means brands can see whether their campaign is successful or not.
Digital screens are a commonplace thing in metros nowadays. In Dhaka city, you could hardly find a place where there is no digital screen. DDAD is a new addition to this onslaught on the attention of people.
From a market perspective, DDAD has an opportunity. Exposure to external stimuli does affect how people behave. It means showing ads when people are shopping for things could be an effective way for brands to influence the purchase decisions of customers. To that end, brands should find this medium useful to promote their products. Since DDAD offers technology integration and analytics, it means the whole thing becomes much more efficient than mere billboard ads that rarely offer any meaningful data.
For retailers, it could offer a new stream of revenue, and the cost almost non-existent.
For DDAD, the opportunity is pretty large. DDAD can effectively become a marketplace for such ads as well as eventually add other types of placements.
The challenge for DDAD is that this is permissionless advertising. People don’t essentially go to retail stores to watch ads or spend free time. They go to buy things and they remain engaged in shopping during these short visits. This is fundamentally different from TV ads or social media ads where people deliberately go to kill time and it does not matter if they need to endure some ads to entertain themselves.
To that end, the effectiveness of such ads remains under serious question. In fact, at times these ads could backfire for brands because relentless permissionless stimuli could cause dissonance in consumers and create a negative perception regarding a brand.
Over the past few decades, we have seen an unparalleled race to find every possible way to bombard people with advertisements and sensations.
From waking up in the morning to going to the bed at the end of the day, the relentless pursuit of attention of consumers has given rise to mediums and channels of advertisement once thought unimaginable and outright violation of personal space and personal liberty.
In marketing language, these are called consumer touchpoints - understand where your customers spend their time and how they spend their time and reach them out there.
This has given rise to a sickness where marketers and corporations appear unwilling to give up on any opportunity to push yet another offer to sell their products.
Ads are everywhere these days - thanks to social media platforms and tech giants such as Facebook and Google. Facebook started off ad-free. But as a free service, the company eventually developed its highly efficient advertising solutions offering precise targeting options and so on. Today, the Facebook newsfeed is littered with ads.
The same is true for Youtube and a host of other services that monetize people’s attention and free time.
These services have not only changed how we spend our free time, they have also changed our understanding of advertisement and their impact on us.
We are now seeing the impact of these platforms in the real world. The cities have now turned into news-feeds with uninterrupted streams of advertisements through digital screens and so on. You would not find a space in Dhaka where there are no digital screens in public space showing ads. A complete disregard for individual freedom and liberty to control his own attention.
These developments appear harmless from the outside. What is wrong if there are digital screens on the streets or in shops and you could show some ads? Not really.
These relentless attacks on human cognitive liberty are causing all kinds of problems in society. It might appear harmless to put yet another ad stand or digital screen in a retail shop and push ads from there, but it is not an innocent act. It is changing how people behave and go about their lives.
Every input and stimuli that go through our brain changes us in some way. It creates cognitive overload. Brains need to process this information. Large cognitive loads create erratic behavior and affect your ability to make sound and independent decisions. This is giving rise to a society that runs on autopilot where people are being constantly pushed around with a relentless onslaught on their attention and cognitive abilities to operate independently.
In his excellent book The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, Matthew B. Crawford offers a stunning rebuke to a world that is increasingly intrusive in nature and disregards the liberty of individuals in controlling his attention and what it costs us as a society:
“Think of the corporate manager who gets two hundred emails per day and spends his time responding pell-mell to an incoherent press of demands. The way we experience this, often, is as a crisis of self-ownership: our attention isn’t simply ours to direct where we will, and we complain about it bitterly. Yet this same person may find himself checking his email frequently once he gets home or while on vacation. It becomes effortful for him to be fully present while giving his children a bath or taking a meal with his spouse. Our changing technological environment generates a need for ever more stimulation. The content of the stimulation almost becomes irrelevant. Our distractibility seems to indicate that we are agnostic on the question of what is worth paying attention to—that is, what to value.”
Second, how right is it to show people ads without their permission when they are taking a ride or shopping in a shop. This is a complete violation of individual liberty in that you are violating my personal space without my permission. I don’t go to a grocery store to watch ads, I go to purchase the necessary products. If you are making me watch an ad while shopping, it is a violation of my personal space and liberty. The same applies when you are showing ads across streets.
Third, while ads are critical for sales. Consumers also don’t trust brands that disregard their privacy and freedom and push around with relentless commercials and infomercials.
While DDAD appears to be an exciting ad-tech company, these are some of the concerns that the company should address while pushing yet another screen at consumers without taking their permission.
Modern brands are increasingly looking to build personalized and useful relationships with consumers. Technology allows brands to achieve these goals. To that end, permission is a critical component for brands when it comes to building meaningful relationships with customers. Reach is useful but it often does not add up in a world that is increasingly fragmented where consumers are being relentlessly pursued with new formats of communications.