Soapbox: Let’s prove to Star Trek Picard that ads don’t have to annoy

We should aim to find ways to garner high conversion rates without always relying upon gimmickry.

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Trekkies are thrilled they have Sir Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc back in Star Trek: Picard. Like any good sci-fi, the show is far more about the present than it is about the future, and it was amusing to see a scene from the recent episode “Stardust City Rag.”

Picard and company visited the Las Vegas-like planet Freecloud. As they arrive, each person receives their own personalized holographic ad. Martech has really advanced. What could go wrong? The ads are personalized and apparently have great engagement. Captain Rios gets an ad for ship repair. Picard gets one for great tea at a hotel. Raffi gets one for sketchy drugs. All things are applicable to them.

Each ad requires interaction, and in the case of the show’s characters, they flick and push away their ads. As cathartic as it would be to actually punch an intrusive ad as Alison Pill’s character AI expert Dr. Agnes Jurati does with an employment ad for an entertainment robotics organization, this is a future many people likely hope that doesn’t come true. The ads come across as obnoxious; none of the characters were thrilled about what was served to them. Clearly, the showrunners are mocking some (hopefully, not all) contemporary digital marketing.

This is where we need to use the art and science of marketing to find balance. Many marketers have stated that bad customer experience or user experience can, at times, yield success. Perhaps subpar experiences get people’s attention and engagement. That’s certainly counterintuitive. Having said that, that’s not a license to annoy.

This is an issue that we all grapple with today, and we should.  We should aim to find ways to garner high conversion rates without always relying upon gimmickry. It’s easier and cheaper to use spectacle than to focus on developing quality products, services and experiences. Aiming for great engagement and conversions should not come at the expense of longer-term goals in earning the trust and appreciation from loyal customers. Going forward, we need to prove the Star Trek: Picard team wrong.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Steve Petersen
Steve Petersen is a B2B and B2C marketing technologist. He currently is a member of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' Digital Product Team and has also worked in marketing technology roles at revenue management platform provider Zuora and before that at Western Governors University. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He's also a Certified ScrumMaster and lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area. Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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