David noted that "The crises hitting the ad industry keep multiplying. Ad-blocking stories have topped the trades and mainstream press for weeks. Talent shortages abound, though the great work produced by top talent is rarely properly rewarded. Twenty years after the first banner ad debuted, we still can't agree on what an impression is. There are crises of confidence matched by crises of competence."
His "fixes" made a lot of sense, like "an ad must be fully viewable on the screen for it to count," and "call three seconds the minimum for what counts as a video view" — even if the more ethereal bromides like "Don't steal" and "Reward great work" seemed a stretch.
But the kicker "Put trust first" was a head-scratcher when David wrote "All that we're missing is a consistent effort to earn the trust of our customers -- and each other."
It’s a head-scratcher because David actually addressed this trust issue earlier, when he called for the industry to "reject short-term opportunism for long-term gains," writing "Can you cram another ad on a page or between pages or every 12 seconds during a video? Sure. What will that do to the user experience? And even if today you can get away with it because you're the only game in town with a certain kind of content, you're making people hate us all more."
In the same publication, the IAB's Randy Rothenberg seemed to agree entirely, yet took a few paragraphs in his own byliner to blame ad blocking on “unethical technology companies seeking to divert ad spending into their own pockets." But then he added, “Unfortunately, these rapacious businesses are also exploiting a real vulnerability: the erosion of stimulating consumer experiences online. For this, the marketing-media ecosystem bears real responsibility."
While I agree with Randy that ad-blocking companies in business to extort ad dollars from those willing to pay to get past the blockers need to be called out, he fails to address major industry players who are building ad blockers into their desktop — and now mobile — browsers. Are they not extorting ad dollars in their own way?
Consumers aren't stupid. They read about these developments, and although they may not understand the fine print, they figure that if The Big Boys are helping block ads, there MUST be something nefarious about ads — so it's OK for individuals to download their own ad blockers. After all, the action is not that far off from their cable companies allowing them to record shows, then fast-forward through TV commercials on replay.
Moreover, consumers "get" that a considerable amount of advertising is designed to get them to buy products and services they really don't want — regardless of that tired notion of right ad, right place, right time.
Our industry is perceived to be the handmaiden of the consumer economy that is driven only by spending. Finally, since consumers pay a substantial monthly fee for broadband, they utterly reject the notion that "ads pay for content," so by ignoring ads, consumers are somehow "stealing."
Calls like David and Randy's "to earn the trust of our customers" are kind of like beauty pageant contestants saying that if they could, they would end world hunger and stop all wars. You need only watch the political circus under our national big top to see that years of built-up "trust" can be compromised by a single misplaced sentence.
Besides, we don't trust consumers anyway. They are not reasonable human beings. They are data points merged, purged, assembled and sold to the highest bidder — who will serve them an ad that about 90% of the time is not in their best interest. If they “convert," they only descend down to another level of hell, because they then become known buyers, so will get MORE meaningless ads.
We have dug ourselves into a very deep hole in this business. Even if we somehow manage to climb out, consumers will still call us hucksters. And honestly, who can blame them?