What's Your Digital Detox Doing to Advertising?

By Jess C on 10 January 2020

Ahh, January.

The promise of tomorrow. The glow on the faces of the hopeful.

The well-deserved smugness of the many who haven’t had a drink in over a week, the few who’ve actually gone to that spin class, and the boomers who haven’t posted a hateful rant on Facebook for ten days.

One of the newest resolutions to be added to this repertoire: the ‘digital detox’. People are getting tired of the persistent stream of notifications and alerts on their phones. There are people who literally can’t make it through a meal without checking their screens (guilty one, right here. No judgements!). Some people are worried about being tracked or having their activity monitored. And then there are those with something called tech neck’ and that s*** hurts.

As we have begun to collectively remove our rose-tinted glasses, a backlash industry has arisen. There are now coaches to help people break up with their digital devices and “unbreak their brains”. You can now go on a digital detox retreat before starting a tech diet. Mindful of the new mindfulness, iOS and Android have incorporated screen-time monitors into their devices.

New studies out of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden reinforce the facts behind tech fatigue. More specifically, that heavy mobile phone use has been correlated with an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase of depressive symptoms in both men and women. And those who’re constantly accessible via mobile phone were the most likely to report mental health issues.

The health benefits of scaling back on technology use are numerous, but from a marketing perspective, a retreat from mobile devices could perhaps have “large implications for marketers and for digital business models that rely on capturing attention,” wrote Renee Cassard from Hearts & Science.

The advertising industry in the United States is already feeling nervous about the sweeping new privacy law in California, which has the potential to limit the flow of the data the industry uses to target consumers. And difficulty surrounding data breaches, malware and the accuracy of audience measurement tools has plagued the mobile marketing industry for a while.

From Cassard’s perspective, “less time spent with mobile devices means fewer chances to reach consumers on these devices, increasing the cost of mobile advertising in the near-term and forcing marketers to rethink where and how they spend advertising dollars in the long-term.”

This type of challenge isn’t the first time we’ve seen marketers re-evaluate their approach. The arrival of GDPR back in May 2018 introduced one of the largest changes to data protection laws in years, affecting organisations and businesses anywhere in the world that processes the personal data of EU citizens. But nearly two years on, people have adopted strategies to minimise drops in income.

 Last year, companies spent $99 billion alone on ads meant for ‘smaller screens’, which is more than television and print advertising combined. These guys appear everywhere: it’s AdMob when you’re playing a game. Banners pop up over articles when you’re in a news app. And videos play in the corner of the websites you visit.

Even with mobile surpassing TV ad spend by more than $6 billion, investment in digital advertising has demonstrated a minor slowdown after years of rapid growth. And brands like Pringles, Audible and Grey Goose Vodka have addressed this growing apprehension surrounding technology and digital culture the only way they know how: the power of advertising. Picking up on this cultural phenomenon, their commercials do well to make you feel like they know about your feelings of digital unease.

And in the ultimate move in Jedi mind-trickery, some brands with the most unmistakable “anti-technology” ads are the tech companies themselves – which use messages around feelings of detachment, isolation and distraction caused by digital devices to advertise… well, more digital devices. 🤔

So, with the rise of the ‘digital detox’ and the relationship between humans and their ever-present digital devices that’s clearly gone amiss, most experts agree that the billions spent on mobile advertising won’t suffer a massive decrease in the coming years.

 Naturally, if half the world’s population decided to lay down their digital devices, it would be a different story. But the impact made by the few who’ve decided to start a “tech diet”, advertisers won’t see their bottom line affected. For those tech users who are concerned about their privacy and security, marketers need to take the old approach of changing their tactic to accomplish their goals.

Ads for the small screen will continue to mushroom, especially as apps become simpler to use. But it’s important to remember the words of Jim Misener, the president of 50,000feet in Chicago, “…You want to build awareness, while decreasing annoyance.”

Imperial Leisure is a creative communications agency specialising in viral marketing, digital and social media. We help our clients deliver the right message to the right audience. We'd love to hear from you so do drop us a line or follow us on Twitter.

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