I can't think of a time when marketers have been so clearly forewarned that a channel would be less of a display opportunity than previously considered. Android ad blockers for Chrome have been around for quite some time now and the ability to block ads on an iPhone within the next few months has been very publicly leaked throughout the past few months.
I blogged last month about how marketers can actually come to terms with the developments with my own conclusion that it really isn't as bad as you may at first think. The mobile screen is small, and display simply doesn't work on the channel unless it is placed to get in our way and interrupt what we were hoping to get done. That just becomes annoying and fuels the desire to block ads -- which, within the next couple of months, will be possible on both major mobile operative systems. As these devices start to account for the majority of Internet use, it is unthinkable that marketers will at least partially give up on the channel. What's needed is another way of engaging users on small, mobile screens.
For me, the very obvious answer is native and it's a logical step where Facebook has truly been leading the way. I was among those who felt brands has been shortchanged when the social giant started to sell in-stream newsfeed sponsored posts -- which, as often as not, are bought by companies to reach their own followers. However, now we are used to social being a pay-to-play channel like any other, the disgruntlement is gone and what advertisers are left with is a lesson in how to reach a target audience as part of the content they are reviewing, not from tiny buttons hidden away or annoying pop-ups and interstitials.
In fact, it looks like Facebook is now moving on from messages in news feeds to trialling ads that act like mini apps. Instead of being asked to like a holiday company, users will be able to check travel dates and make bookings within an ad or maybe book at a table at a restaurant or pre-order the latest DVD or computer game a retailer is hawking. Mobile has to be simplified in this way. There's no point in expecting people to click on multiple pages and input information again and again. If you want to influence customer behaviour, it must be done right there and then.
So display is going to struggle to transition into mobile -- but marketers looking to drive engagement should not be too concerned. Native, in-feed content and advertising will evolve to not only offer a route to be seen that is far less intrusive, but also to offering a means of empowering consumers to act on a call to action.
It really is time for marketers to up their mobile game and be ready for when the display days of "spray and pray" are replaced by what I would call "engage and empower."