Why lean-back advertising should be different

There are lean-forward moments and lean-back moments in everyone’s life. People lean forward to get things done and lean back to relax. There are opportunities for advertisers to take advantage of both these states, targeting consumers with the right sort of experience at the right time.

Lean-forward experiences are all about tasks, about accomplishing something. You’re checking your emails, researching holiday destinations or getting instructions about how to set the autotimer on your camera. When leaning forward, people have a goal or an objective. 

Digital advertising has traditionally looked to insert itself been between people and their task, either by helping them fulfill their goal or distracting them away. So you get either the search ad that offers 30% off flights to the destination you’ve searched for, or the flashing banner ad that promises you a three-year warrantee on your next digital camera while you’re visiting Facebook. The aim is to either be the answer to or the distraction from the “journey” that consumers are on.

There is a different way.

The advent of computers and tablets in particular has created new interactive opportunities and spawned a new way of engaging consumers. Brands are beginning to use interactive devices to go beyond sponsorship to create ownable, lean-back experiences for people to enjoy.

These new lean-back advertising experiences aren’t designed to fulfill a distinct or definable objective. People are not looking to find a shortcut or to add something to their shopping basket, and therefore, it would be wrong for advertisers to assume that the consumer is in an active buying mode. Within the lean-back environment the opportunity is not to provide help with something that the consumer needs, but to provide content that people want to view. 

Seen through the lens of lean-back media, Howard Gossage’s quote, more than ever, rings true: “People don’t read ads—they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.”

Our job is to make interesting ads – ads that people will be happy to read, view or engage with when they’re lying on the sofa or sitting on the train. Lean-back is not the ideal time to serve that cookie-tracked, buy-one-get-one-free coupon. Instead advertisers should see the lean-back experience as a chance to leave a lasting impression on a consumer in a state where they’re susceptible to new ideas. It’s the chance to enchant, to amaze, and to delight – to help consumers experience your brand the way you want to be seen.