How will we react to choice?

Picture this: You're watching your favourite TV show. Let's just say it's an hour long, which means that (so long as you're watching it live), there are roughly eighteen or so minutes worth of commercials aired. Now normally you would not have a choice of what these commercials are and normally you would simply change channels or walk away from the TV during them... but..what if you had a choice of which commercials you wanted to see (or not see)? Would you spend eighteen minutes interacting with ads or would you simply choose to see no ads?

Although this situation is hypothetical and refers to a traditional marketing medium, this is slowly becoming a reality online and I think will soon become a reality offline as well. A few weeks ago, this Google blog post talked about what the future of display advertising will look like. The post mentions a very interesting ad technology that Google has been testing on YouTube called, "TrueView." According to the post: "These ad formats give people the option to skip an ad if they don’t want to watch, or to choose from multiple ads the one they want to watch. Importantly, advertisers only pay if the user chooses to watch their ad."

I had to take a minute to fully digest the potential of this technology. It gives consumers a choice. Can we finally say goodbye to the days of interruptive marketing? I think the very interesting question now becomes... if we have the choice to say no.. then in what situations do we say: yes, market to me, I am looking to engage with your message? For a while, Facebook ads have given you the choice to close them (marked by a small x in the top right corner). If you choose to close an ad, Facebook will ask you why you didn't like it (options are: Uninteresting, misleading, offensive, repetitive or other) and follows up by saying "Thanks for your feedback. Over time, this information helps us deliver more relevant ads to you."

Choosing the view a relevant ad is the ultimate win-win action a consumer can take. Marketers win because consumers give them permission to engage and consumers win because they are actually finding value in the message being delivered. With the launch of the Google TV platform earlier this week, I am sure we can expect to see the blurring of traditional and non-traditional media and we may see TrueView appear on our home TVs at some point in the future. Although it has not been launched yet, I think TrueView is going to be a very interesting technology to watch. How will consumers react when given a choice? Will we actually choose to consume ads or have we become so conditioned to be annoyed by them that will we completely ignore them?

Final thought: I think having the option to choose is always better than not; however, psychologists (More specifically Sheena Iyengar and her colleagues) have proven the paradox of choice is that when we have many choices, we ultimately find it harder to choose anything. So when the future of display ads arrive...how will we choose to react?