Just the other day I stumbled upon an infographic that said interruptive advertising is failing. It displayed data from low performing banner ads, an increase in ad blocking, and a decrease in television subscriptions. Now enter the dogma message that the days of interruptive marketing are over… After seeing this, I couldn’t help but have a knee-jerk reaction.

Everything about that infographic is wrong!
Well, it’s not all wrong, but there is a major principle missing from the conversation. Interruptive advertising DOES work, if… And it’s a big “IF…” The interruption quickly engages the prospect and draws them into a story about how to solve their problem.

Interruptive Ads Are a Science, Literally
There is a actually a very, very important reason why this is true and it has to do with the science of your brain.  Now I’m going to keep a long story short here, but if you understand the principles of brain science you will become the greatest marketer in the world.

The brain has two fundamental states of awareness; Alpha = a state of auto pilot, and Beta = a state of alertness. The Reticular Activator (RA) controls what wakes up the brain and moves it from Alpha to Beta. The RA is constantly on the lookout for things that are familiar, problematic or unusual. And when it observes anything of that nature, it will snap your brain from Alpha to Beta.

I never knew so many people were driving the car I bought!
As an example, have you ever noticed that when you’re thinking about or have recently purchased a car, you suddenly notice all of the same types of cars on the road? That is your Reticular Activator doing its job. It’s taking something where you have currently shown an interest (it’s familiar to you) and it’s snapping your brain from Alpha to Beta so you can continue to evaluate and make a decision.  After a while your brain will start to tune out all of those cars because it’s become so familiar, and you no longer need to take action, that your brain figures out it no longer needs to pay such close attention.

The advertising industry knows how to do interruptive
Interruptive advertising is great at flipping your brain from Alpha to Beta, but it’s lousy at keeping you engaged, so you quickly revert back to Alpha mode. After a while your brain is trained that whole classes of advertising are low value (think of banner advertising mentioned in the infographic) and will basically ignore it completely. It now takes new interruptive methods to get your attention.

A quirky video creates a whole new product category
Who ever knew that they needed a razor and a blade delivered to their home for as little as a $1 per week. The Dollar Shave Club did.

Dollar Shave ClubThe reason the dollar shave club ad works is because it is quirky (interrupts me to get my attention), but quickly ties into a frustrating emotion: paying $35 for a pack of 5 freakin’ razor blades. Seriously, right?  How many of you guys have stood in the shaving aisle, wondering how in hell you have to pay $35 for a pack of blades. It drove me crazy.

Here’s the secret to their “interruptive success.” They quickly transition my brain into Beta with their quirky interruption and keep me engaged with their hilarious video. They’ve touched a hot button and then they keep me engaged with the entire advertisement and a whole new category of product is invented!

The beauty of their approach was that it tapped such an emotional hot button, and their advertisement was so engaging that it went viral and that’s how most people were made aware of Dollar Shave Club.

So, you can make Interruptive advertising work, but it can’t be interruptive just for the sake of the interruption, it has to quickly engage the prospect in the story that is going to solve their problem.

The point I’m trying to make is simple. Having something good to say and saying it well is only half the battle. Your audience will never see your content unless you transition their brain from Alpha to Beta. And interruptive adverting is the best way to flip that switch.