But what about publishers? Some have pointed out that ad blocking is bad for publishers because it can cut one of their major revenue sources. Others have complained that the publishers’ focus on revenue is at the root of this problem, because in their desperation to generate advertising money, they are pummeling readers with unwanted, intrusive, distracting ads. But ultimately, do the publishers really suffer as a result of annoying ads?
The answer is a resounding “yes.”
A few months ago I wrote about a research experiment that was able to quantify the economic cost of annoying ads. That particular experiment focused on the immediate, negative impact of annoying ads for publishers.
I now believe that greatest danger of such ads for publishers is the long-term damage to their brands — and the impact this will have on traffic, reader loyalty, and ultimately on their survival.
Several years back, I was involved with a predictive analytics project for a large telecommunications company. We aimed to explore strategies — a combination of prevention and
intervention — that would minimize the impact of viruses on mobile devices.
At the start of the project, I mentioned to our client my surprise that they would put so much effort into a problem that was entirely due to the hardware and software, which they did not control. The client pointed out that, unlike personal computers, where consumers blame the hardware or software manufacturers for viruses, in the wireless world consumers blame the carriers. For instance, if my mobile phone stops working because of a virus, I am more likely to blame Verizon or AT&T than I am to blame Samsung or Apple, or even Android or iOS.
In my opinion, a similar situation exists in digital publishing. If I am reading a digital publication and I get really annoyed about an ad, I will instinctively feel annoyance toward the publisher, not toward the brand.
In the last few months I’ve noticed a few publishers that do excessively aggressive advertising, and I've put them on my blacklist. This includes one that uses long pre-roll ads on videos with no opportunity to opt out after a few seconds, and another publisher that auto-plays video ads with the audio on. I know exactly what publishers they are — and I avoid them like the plague.
I believe that I am not alone in this sort of behavior. We form emotional associations with brands on the basis of our experience, and these associations become stronger with repeated exposure.
The repetitive bad experience in the case of annoying advertising rests entirely with the publisher, not with the advertiser. The unwanted audio or the unstoppable pre-rolls will showcase different brands — but the publishers forcing these annoying ads upon me remain the same, and my dislike for them will grow.