Rock around the ad block

How to make sure your ads get through

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As our appetite for life online continues to grow, so does the amount of digital advertising we ingest on a daily basis. Some of it’s good, a lot of it’s bad, most of it is unwelcome.

As a result, more and more of us are turning to ad blocking software to turn down the noise of a cluttered digital landscape. With Apple now joining the block party, the software that was once a minor concern for the advertising industry is now causing full-scale panic.

Is this the end of digital advertising as we know it… or is the answer to our problem staring us in the face?

No junk mail please

Today, there are around 198 million active users of the major browser extensions that block digital advertising. For some, it’s about privacy of information. For others, all the banners, pre-rolls and all the other gumpf that invades our screens are just plain annoying.

So with millions of customers opting to slap the digital equivalent of a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on their letterbox, maybe it’s time the industry took the hint. Whatever we’re doing now, it isn’t working. Could this pickier, tech savvy consumer be the catalyst for a shift towards a more relevant and creative approach to digital advertising?

Skip to the point

Let’s face it, at some point or another, we’ve all put ourselves at risk of RSI by hyper-clicking the ‘skip ad’ button on our YouTube clip. And the irritation doesn’t end there. Videos pop up and play uninvited, banners flash and twitch desperate for our attention; web pages take forever to load while nibbling into our monthly mobile data allowance.

Much of the digital advertising we’re served up on a regular basis feels intrusive and impersonal. Take the banner ad for example, 20 years old and by far one the most prevalent and least discerning of the digital advertising forms. The average internet user sees over 1700 banner ads alone over one month, and this number jumps significantly amongst younger people. And that’s just one type of ad.

Against this backdrop, ad block usage in the UK increased by a whopping 82% last year – the equivalent of around 12 million users.

A bitter bite of the apple

Despite the sharp increase in users opting out of their own accord, it was Apple’s announcement in September to allow ad blocking software on their devices that really put the cat amongst the pigeons.

“It’s robbery, plain and simple,” exclaimed Randall Rothenberg, president-CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. A little dramatic perhaps, but with the forecast loss of revenue estimated to peak at $41.4B by 2016, you can see why the industry big guns are touchy about the subject.

But there’s something altogether more precious at stake here: data.

Ad blocking software also stops the tracking scripts used in analytics. This data is used to build a profile of users’ behaviour to help advertisers understand and better target customers. For many, this insight is far more valuable than the revenue generated by digital ads.

Blockers and Watchers

While lots of us dislike it, most understand that there’s a price to pay for non-subscription websites such as Facebook or YouTube – namely having our viewing pleasure interrupted or our personal info rummaged through for marketing purposes.

Yet for millennials, it’s the marked increase in the number of ads that’s forced them to take matters into their own hands. Websites catering to young, technically savvy, or male audiences are significantly more affected by ad blocking.

These demographics are by no means lost; but a different tack is required if you’re going to grab – and hold – their attention.

The GEICO ‘Unskippable’ campaign used interstitial (pre-roll) ads to great effect. With around 94 percent of pre-roll adverts being skipped after five seconds, those first moments really need to pack a punch. If you don’t grab them, they’re gone. GEICO got it. The campaign was designed specifically for this medium, and was pitch-perfect; funny, engaging and yes, unskippable.

Honda’s ‘Paper’ campaign is another good example. Illustrating the brand’s history, this two minute tour-de-force of stop-motion animation notched up a whopping 10 million views in its first couple of weeks.

At Advertising Week in New York, Vice President of Marketing for American Honda Motoring, Tom Peyton, had a clear message for the industry regarding ad blocking: “Just make an ad everybody wants to watch. Make great content.”

So, if your ad is good, it’ll be watched. If it’s great, it’ll be shared.

Simple.

Maybe the only block digital advertising has is a creative one?

4 ways to ensure your ads get seen

Get the profile right – Segment your audience and build a communication strategy for each profile. One size never fits all.

The right stuff – Be selective about your marketing mix. If digital isn’t right for your audience, drop it.

Integrate your communications – Use an integrated approach to optimise your reach and consolidate your campaign, especially for those audiences that are likely to have ad blocking software.

Invest in good, high quality creative – If it’s good, people will want to watch it. And even better, share it. Matching quality creative to the medium is essential for relevancy.

Sources:

[1] PageFair Adobe The Cost of AdBlocking

[2] ComScore Digital Future in Focus

[3] PageFair Adobe The Cost of AdBlocking

[4] PageFair Adobe The Cost of AdBlocking

[5] PageFair Adobe The Cost of AdBlocking

[6] http://www.adweek.com/agencyspy/the-martin-agency-makes-unskippable-pre-roll-ads-for-geico/81730

Also published on Medium.

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