Marketers are often perceived as the Darth Vaders of the world: the ‘evil people’ – destroying happiness and taking over the world with their evil little ads.
In this constant battle between the ‘dark side’ and the ‘force’, ad blocker was created. Today, 48% of the web visitors (in the United States) use Ad Blocker – the shield that protects consumers from the firing of ads.
Ad-Block interferes with the HTML and proper loading of a web site to block ads from displaying on both desktop and mobile devices. Marketers believe (read: convince themselves) that this breaches the implicit “free content in exchange for advertising” understanding between a website and visitor.
Industry experts estimate that ad blockers on desktop computers will cost publishers $22 billion this year alone in lost ad revenue – a huge hit for the entire industry. So today, there are technologies (example: BlockBypass) that allow any website to continue serving ads to users running Ad-Block. While some might believe that this is a step forward for marketers, this in-fact is a step backwards for our consumers.
I believe that instead of spending resources to circumvent a clear signal of disinterest from consumers, we should be moving forward to create innovations in digital advertising that users would not want to block. We as marketers, should be able to convince our audiences that we can be useful to them. Perhaps, advertisers and consumers might never be the best of friends but at-least we can make strides to live harmoniously in the Galaxy. In this mission, I do see some trends that I would like to highlight:
1. Change in choice dynamics: Currently the way we serve impressions are as follows- we serve, consumers are forced to see. This illusion of power that if users consumer free content or use free apps, they will have to see crappy ads. We evolved from video impressions in gaming apps that you have to watch to users ‘skipping’ a video on YouTube. Today, platforms like Snapchat truly change the choice dynamics – consumers CHOOSE to engage with certain brands and channels. Choice dynamics will change very rapidly and we no longer will hold the upper hand by throwing marketing dollars and forcing people to watch our ads.
2. Immersive Ad Experiences: The current model of advertising disrupts current user flow. Bombarding users with ad impressions in the middle of content is just sad. Can’t put it any other way but while consumers put up with that (with a mindless scroll of-course), they are never going to give a sh*t. Advertising will move towards a fully immersive ad experience with multi-media and brand content that people love and want to share. (aka. Love marks, done right). If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out Facebook’s Canvas Ads – the one format I would +heart on.
3. Native Content 2.0: Native Advertising has been a step forward for consumers in the right direction. Ads in the native experience of a site are both appealing and exciting. Still in it’s nascent state, this has a potential to be that bridge of harmony between the two. Breaking the experience between a publisher and an advertiser is painful for the consumer and the less we fight amongst ourselves, the better it is. Google is moving towards displaying the right chunks on information through their quick answers box (and micro-moment questions) while Facebook is releasing Instant articles that gives consumers the opportunity to read content directly in the app. While publishers will try to take everything on-platform, I don’t see this as such a bad thing for advertisers. Publishers and advertisers need each other to exist and currently are both working towards a ‘least damaging model’ (i.e. reducing drop off and improving the experience while giving sessions to the advertiser).
I think we are really lucky to be marketers in this era – moving away from the manipulative ways of Mad Men to truly caring about the consumers and fulfilling their needs. Let’s move forward with consumer-first mindset; after all, the galaxy will cease to exist without them.