Stopping Ad Blockers: No Time To Waste

The ad industry is facing a Hollywood-style potential apocalypse – and the only question is will it turn out like “Armageddon” or “The Day After Tomorrow”?

The growing and real threat is that software and hardware being developed and used today can cut out ads altogether. And like our machine nemesis from “The Matrix” – the machines don’t care if they are good ads or bad ads, helpful or annoying. Once they are in charge it’s simply Ad-mageddon.

It should come as no surprise that people are using technology to cut down on ads. According to various studies, we are exposed to between 3,000-6,000 advertising messages a day. Considering how many of these messages, paid to grab our attention, are completely irrelevant to us, it’s more surprising we aren’t more outraged.  

According to Nielsen we will spend two years of our lives watching TV commercials.  Compare that to the mere 48 days we, on average, will spend kissing during our lifetimes and the issue becomes very clear: our lives are being wasted as we wait through completely irrelevant ads. This general disdain is not new – but the tools and technology to mobilize those feelings into action are.

By the way – it’s not just consumers who should be outraged. Advertisers should be outraged as well. It does them no good when they pay for ads that reach the wrong people.

It seems that as soon as there were mass media to advertise in, there were people complaining about the ads. “Many of the claims made for products were excessive and often mendacious, bringing advertising into disrepute well before the turn of the [19th] century,” wrote Jeremiah O’Sullivan Jr. in The Social And Cultural Effects of Advertising.  

So why is today’s impending doom any more real than last year’s or when the VHS became fashionable?

There are two reasons that this time the threats are not idle - they come in the form of hardware and software.

There are machines that let consumers skip TV ads. DVR penetration in the U.S. now stands at 63%. And if ads people see during their favorite shows remain mostly irrelevant, the number of people using their DVRs to skip ads will continue to climb. Once people have decided to skip ads it will be very difficult to convince them to go back to the old ad-filled ways.

The latest and most telling development is the release of software that simply helps people 'turn off' ads on digital platforms. Two weeks ago, three of the top ten iPhone apps in the App Store were ad-blocking apps. Yes, people have been grumbling about ads forever, but the tech landscape has now provided an outlet to turn those feelings into actions that have a very real and very deep impact.

Back to our central question: is the industry facing an “Armageddon” or “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario? Otherwise stated, is this a story that can have a happy ending?

The good news is that just as technology has empowered a potentially cataclysmic industry event, it also has the power to fix the problem. Search advertising has proven that the information typed into the search bar provides a rich indication of what the perfect accompanying ads should be. Today, people, through things like search terms, are constantly sending out signals about what brand message they are most open to. On YouTube, that little search box has the power to make sure the ads are finding the right people at the right time.

Mobile opens new worlds of data that can use location to provide even more accuracy in the game of matchmaking the right ad messages to the right consumer at the right time. The digital world has the data to save the day. But the clock is running out.  Many of the digital giants are holding onto the data that might be the cure for the entire industry.

Time is the factor.  We have to improve the accuracy of connecting the right ads to the right people at the right time before the ad industry self-destructs. We have the tools, and the need – now all we have to do is realize the asteroid is hurtling towards us. Moving slowly is the same as doing nothing at all.

3 comments about "Stopping Ad Blockers: No Time To Waste".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 13, 2015 at 5:54 p.m.

    Dave, a couple of stats from our annual, "TV Dimensions," and my new book, "TV Now and Then" may be of interest. First, the average adult is currently exposed to only 160-165 TV commercials per day and probably sees or notes only around 90 of them. Far less are remembered, even with a good deal of prompting by the researchers. That's not exactly a barrage. Even if you add in the other media, you get nothing even remotely approaching the 3000-6000 ads a day figure you cited. Second, again taking TV, the average adult, who is somewhere in his or her early-mid forties, has been exposed to something like 1.7 million TV ads over the course of his/her lifetime. That works out to about 1.6-1.8 years worth of commercial exposures---not to be confused with commercial viewing, by the way. Also, only half of U.S. TV homes---not 63%--- have one or more DVRs and the average commercial zapping rate for delayed viewers is actually declining, compared to early adopter levels.

    I do agree with you about the need for digital ad sellers and publishers to make some major adjustments ---and quickly. It would really pay dividends if they did some serious homework about how branding advertisers really think----not that they are always realistic or objective, mind you---so whatever new options are developed have practical relevance for branding as well as direct response/search advertisers.

  2. Robert V from N/A, October 13, 2015 at 7:46 p.m.

    Hey Ed, the article says "we are exposed to between 3,000-6,000 advertising messages a day," not TV commercials. Obviously no one sees 3,000-6,000 TV commercials a day. That would be impossible since it would take 25 hours to watch 3,000 commercials. Also, all of the recent DVR studies place the number at 60-70% (not your 50%), and the dilemma worsens when you factor in NetFlix, Apple TV, etc. 

  3. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , October 14, 2015 at 4:05 p.m.

    You say that location ads are going to solve the problem? That is not any kind of solutionthat will do anything. Look at the problem- digital ads suck. 90% of the banner ads on the internet are static images?  And we're placing these on the most powerful supercomputer that is in our hands?  These suckie, inert ads inspire no one.  Marketers have done a piss poor job of taking care of their own brands and now consumers are pushing back.  They've had enough.  They want messages that are funny, interactive, educational or save me money- something worth my time.  Its been proven that HTML5 interactive storytelling ads get 2%+ click rates. Why is that?  Would anyone on this planet expect that a static 15 sec TV commerical with no sound work well?  So why then would we expect it to work on a mobile or desktop device that is even better because its interactive?   High time that CMOs invest in their own brands and respect the consumer with something worth their time.  Until that day we will fail and the consumer will just block everyone out.  Good luck we dont change.  Indeed I'm in agreement, no time to waste CMOs and Agencies, DO YOUR JOB!

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