The Other Interstitial Marketing

The Dread Interstitial Dimension

In common ecommerce, webvertising parlance, “interstitial marketing” refers to an advertisement that loads between two content pages, such as a pop-up ad or those full-page ad that run on many sites before you want to watch a film or video. Interstitials are about interrupting your web experience, very similar to broadcast media interrupting your experience with advertising.

I’m not talking about those interstitial ads. The word interstices can refer to a small or narrow space or amount of time. I think in marketing our theorizing tends to stick with big, permanent structures far too much. I think we should start to think about the dynamism of marketing, seeing how things constantly change.

I’d like to suggest that a new Interstitial Marketing is Marketing that exploits the opportunities in rapidly closing gaps between needs and market structures. It is the filling in on the fly of a constantly moving gap. Oftentimes, that gap is created when market needs change, but larger corporations can’t act quickly enough to fill it. So often small companies do it. Or it may be created when legal or infrastructural elements are changing and only smaller or more rapidly moving entities can respond quickly enough to exploit it. Can you say Napster? Or google? Or wikipedia? And so on.

The idea of an “opportunity” or a “gap” is a bit deceiving here. It isn’t something that necessarily already exists “out there” for companies to jump into. It’s often a co-creation. The entrepreneurial company suggests. Consumer groups respond to it, and suggest changes. The small, quyick-moving company makes adaptations. The dance happens rapidly, sort of like the big, slow-moving guy watching the nimble footloose young kid steal his girl away at the prom. And before you know it, they’re dancing perfectly together, attuned for a glorious moment in time. And often, that’s all they get. And all they need.

My friend and colleague Graham St. John is an anthropologist who studies Interstices all over the world where dance, music, and protest combine. In socially unguarded spaces and in openings, such as the Australian outback, or Greek beaches, or the streets of Berlin, parties happen as people congregate into communal forms that are temporary, activist, and celebratory all at once. I’ve used some of Graham’s ideas and played with this notion of temporary but strongly-bound community in the past, calling the concept “hypercommunity.”

I recommend Graham’s blog and his work in general. He is a brilliant anthropologist and is working in a fascinating area. He wrote me recently and his comments midwifed this idea of a new view of Interstitial Marketing. He said that he suspects “that developers seek to profit from the window that opens between product availability and crack (and the latter often circulate within small communities of hackers for a long time) with companies keen to keep the whacked product/software under the rug at all costs.” I think he’s absolutely right with this specific observation, and with a more general extrapolation from it. Our theories of marketing and consumer behavior are not really attuned to these rapidly moving, temporal, chase and catch and new chase begins sorts of market behaviors, their vitality and dynamism. And in this age of Internet-based communal acceleration, they really should be.

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