YouTube users like a lot of things. They like watching kids being shot by paintballs. They like watching babies get kicked by break-dancers. Heck, they even like watching some poor kid slur his words after a visit to the dentist.
Judgment on the tastes of YouTube’s denizens aside, one thing is certain. They do not like the idea of advertising as a user experience.
Last week at Cannes, Microsoft announced their plan to implement Kinect-enabled advertising on Xbox LIVE, which you can watch here:
Different commands allow users to tweet ads, receive more information on advertised products and find nearby outlets that sell these items.
And while the video was meant for the eyes of marketers, it inevitably fell into the hands of actual users. And they were not happy. Watching the video on our website neglects to inform you of how wildly unpopular the idea is. As of early Tuesday morning, about 3% of users “liked” the video. That means YouTube users like watching a baby being kicked about 30 times more than they like the idea of interactive advertising on their Xboxes.
“Repeat after me: Advertising is not content. Advertising is never cool. Auto-tweet is a recipe for me to lose followers. Uniqueness does not have a scale,” wrote user Cronyni.
The company also took flak for pending angry comments early on, but has since released the river.
Introducing interactive advertising for the Xbox was not a mistake. It has the capacity to prove a boon. But it’s hard to imagine what Microsoft was thinking when they pitched it as a benefit to players (even in a video to marketers), who are used to advertising playing a passive role in their user experience.
“A core principle for advertising on Xbox LIVE is to invite, not interfere with, the user experience,” a Microsoft spokesperson said Tuesday. “We diligently work with brands to ensure they deliver engaging experiences that are relevant and add value to the Xbox LIVE community.”
“You need to actively engage with the ad, it doesn’t just pop up in front of you and interrupt your entertainment experience like other, more traditional, advertising,” the spokesperson said.
Many YouTube comments expressed dismay that Xbox users, who pay an annual fee to access the online network, would essentially be paying to be advertised to. Others were excited by the technological innovations presented in the video, but wondered why those innovations were scarcely seen in actual games.
YouTube is not Microsoft’s audience. But those who take the time to watch this video likely own an Xbox or are generally interested in tech. Microsoft should be worried. They communicated a fundamental misunderstanding to Xbox users: that advertising is fun and is a positive part of the user experience rather than a detractor from user experience. Unless they manage to find a Man Your Man Could Smell Like for every Xbox LIVE spot, that’s a hard ideal to uphold. And that conceit has harmed feelings of goodwill toward their brand.