The wider adoption of ad blocking technology across both display and mobile devices is not going to have an overwhelming or abrupt impact on the avid digital marketer in the immediate future, but it acts as an ominous prophesy of what could come to be. A recent US study from PageFair stated that US ad blocking has grown by 48%, reaching 45 million active users. This indicates a significant increase in people embracing this potentially industry influencing technology. The genesis of ad blocking has come and in its nascent form it cannot pose the digital marketer any insurmountable challenge. That said, it is now our task as marketers to avoid getting drawn into direct combat with ad blockers and instead ask what we can do for brands to avoid consumers wanting to use ad blockers in the first place.
The simplest truth, and foremost issue, is that programmatic advertising, when done badly, does not offer users an enriching experience, but instead can feel like a series of interruptions, which can lead consumers to ad blocking. The poetry in motion of a finely optimised DCO campaign, or indeed a superbly fashioned native programmatic strategy, inhabits the other end of this wide spectrum. The reality is that the full potential of programmatic has yet to be realized and many marketers are still coming to grips with simply understanding the technological capabilities it offers, as opposed to leveraging these in innovatively intelligent ways to engage consumers.
It remains all too easy for marketers to look at KPI’s such as a click through rate (CTR) or cost per acquisition (CPA) and see numbers instead of real people. But focusing on these simple metrics alone, especially if tied to an archaic attribution model such as last click, devolves marketing to a pure numbers game, which is an approach that is not conducive to a satisfying customer experience. The marketing becomes less about creating a meaningful connection between brand and consumer, an action that would have a longer lifetime value, but instead more about hitting an aggressive target.
The easiest way to enrich a customer’s experience is within the creative messaging itself. A good story told once, but told well, will drive people to engage far more than an average story constantly projected into their consumer sphere. Programmatic is not the only online space to come to this revelation, in fact, all facets of media are having to consider being more creative with their advertising in a bid to help reinterest the millennial ad block savvy generation. Casting our mind away from programmatic momentarily to other media, we can see marketers at large are starting to actively combat consumer disinterest through creative means. Vice Media’s new cable network Vicetone will feature many ads that are produced in-house and fabricated following stringent brand guidelines. Vice’s COO Eddy Moretti stated that “If we create a user experience that is more engaging than what else is on the dial, people won’t flip.” A statement that resonates with the entire media landscape.
An example of advertising that enriches user experience comes from Print, namely GQ magazine. Almost half of the printed pages in GQ magazine are branded photographs; adverts. But, unlike an ad that follows you around the internet trying to sell you a pair of shoes you’ve decided you dislike on examination, these branded photographs are so in vogue with the content of the magazine that they enrich the readers experience, if nothing more than through acting as pretty pictures. The lesson that programmatic marketers must learn from this, to enter a more learned and less invasive state, is that the precedent of programmatic activity should shift from one that looks solely at numbers to one that understands that advertising must thrill consumers to have a real impact.
Programmatic technology offers brands a way to make more meaningful connections with consumers. The task for the industry is no longer one of building the framework, but instead of finding better ways of using this structure to deliver consumers less puerile experiences. This is the sole way to ensure that ad blocking will not restrict the industry from blossoming into what it has the potential to become.
(First Published on personal LinkedIn)
(Photo – Eli Woodbine, Canada, 2016)