Over the last 15 years, the ability to circumvent paid advertising has evolved from passing-over commercials (first made possible by TiVo) to the skipping of digital pre-roll placements (courtesy of Google’s TrueView). Given the choice, the majority of viewers are clearly opting out.
The Wall Street Journal reports that 73% of “Mad Men” linear commercials were skipped during a period in 2014 and Google claims between 45 –85% of people skip pre-rolls.
As networks look to make-good for linear audience deficiencies caused by declining ratings, and digital publishers seek to maintain the steady flow of those shifted dollars, the fragmentation continues. Each medium increases its ad loads in an effort to cover. This includes more spots per video pod, more insertion points, more banners, more takeovers, more interstitials --and worst of all -- more intrusive commercials.
Not only is the sheer volume of ads cluttering the Internet, but the frequency at which they are delivered to a unique person is rarely capped. Throw in concerns about privacy and you can see why Internet users are now turning to ad blockers as a way to tune-out even more of the messages that underwrite their mostly free Internet experience.
How massive is the ad blocking industry? Ad blockers are now being downloaded over 3M+ times a week and that number is quickly growing. Today, the number of installed, active blockers is over 100MM.
Why do we block commercials? Because they can be annoying, disruptive and often not relevant to most people. They don't speak to us personally and they aren't memorable.
Thanks to YouTube, we are encouraged to look for, and expect, a large skip button to appear on all pre-roll ads that are served to us. Our mouse automatically hovers over the bottom right hand corner of the screen as we countdown the seconds before we can move on. Ever watch your kids do this? It’s second nature to them.
As consumers, we have become our own personal ad blockers. When I come upon Spot 1 of 7 on a Full Episode Player, I simply mute the volume and open up another browser. Why not read email for three and a half minutes? If I’m going to see the same commercials in every pod, I’m going to skip, block, and avoid them at all cost. Is it any wonder why the most premium of sites still have challenges with viewability?
We can do better. Messages can be created that aren’t “ads." Advertising is not about tricking someone; it’s about initiating communication that is more authentic. We now see customization and personalization of pretty much everything. Why shouldn’t advertising follow suit?
The onus has to be on the marketer to create programming that is more compelling than a one size fits all broadcast. It’s not hard to tell stories that draw attention and evoke emotion from your audience. Check out most brand marketers’ YouTube pages and you’ll find professionally produced vignettes, episodic tips or stories from customers. Some marketers are even creating their own digital studios to produce theatrical, quality programming.
Remember the first time you saw Always’ “Like A Girl” video (56M views and 250K social shares) or American Greetings’ “World’s Toughest Job” (25M views and 1MM+ social shares)? Both evoke great emotion and they inspire us to share and amplify them throughout our communities. If we blocked them we wouldn't be able to experience amazing stories like those and share in the important discussions that can follow.
Ad blocking is not going away and there will always be a way for consumers to avoid your messages even if it’s as simple as closing their eyes. So what can be done to combat this problem?
First, viewers should be given better tools to connect with brands that are taking the time to better articulate their messages. Rather than stripping out all ads, blockers should be designed to reduce the ads that are irrelevant to us. As a viewer, we should be given the opportunity to pick and choose which ads we want to be served, where and when, thus identifying ourselves to the publishers. Unlike most ad blockers. Mesh Digital is one company that enables individuals to choose which brands to connect with through online ads, and which brands to avoid that are irrelevant to them.
Second, marketers should continue to evolve their strategy to engage consumers via immersive video. We’re living in a Golden Age of storytelling and I submit that it's never been a better time to be a content creator. Indeed, we have the tools to make amazing, high touch ads and the ability to customize messages based on time, weather or even purchasing behavior.
The famous Chinese proverb says, “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” We can address audiences on a 1:1 basis in via placements that are non-intrusive and have metrics to gauge that message’s effectiveness. Let’s say goodbye to commercials. Let’s embrace advertainment.