How To Lead A Purposeful, Ad-Blockless Life

It’s certainly the right thing to say, and Marissa Mayer and several others have said it: the way to deal with the ad-blocking crisis online is to make better ads. With Apple’s iOS9 enabling ad-blocking software for mobile, the idea of continuing to fight by making ads even more intrusive and harder to dismiss seems preposterous.

The advertising world is up in arms about ad-blocking because for the first time, advertisers have to actually earn their audience, and that won’t happen when we’re cramming as many “copy points” and sales messages as we can into a 30-second spot.

Now we know we have no choice. We simply must figure out how tell stories and provide meaningful information to make emotional connections with our audiences. We have to start seeing them as discerning human beings, not as a faceless, manipulable horde of “consumers.”

The good part? When it comes to ad-blocking, marketers and advertisers are getting a loud and clear wake up call to get back to the source: genuine creativity.

Here are five ways to make the most of the current advertising landscape and answer the question: "How do we make content people will actually choose to watch?"

1) Recognize that ad-blocking is part of a much larger change: It’s a mistake to think of ad-blocking strictly in engineering or “spy vs. spy” terms. Treat the arrival of ad-blockers on iOS9 as the final proof – consumers are going to find away around content they don’t want get to content they do want.

Note how cable and network TV numbers are plummeting, while premium content providers expand. Look at the sheer screen time being invested on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; all of them are essentially user-controlled and curated experiences. 

2) Make creative briefs creative!: This may sound obvious, but it’s an easy way to see where your mind is. If your creatives don’t care, how will your audience? The best way to learn how to make content that attracts audiences is to set out to create that kind of content in the first place. 

I haven’t met a creative yet who doesn’t want his or her work to connect with people, and affect them. But you wouldn’t know that from most creative briefs. Do a roundup of the last 15 briefs your team has done. Are you inspired? 

3) Find your center and enlarge your frame: The best brands know why they’re in business, and the answer to their “why” defines not only how they run their businesses, but also how they represent and talk about them. A deeply considered “why” radically expands the scope and range of topics they can pursue. 

If you haven’t reimagined your brand as a purpose-driven organization, do it now. If you brand does have a clear charter and relevant personality, look at those same briefs again: is your brand’s purpose shining through in your advertising, and is it genuinely shaping the content you create for customers? 

4) Make a map, and measure it:  Whether you’re using Google’s Micro-moments, Hero, Hub Hygiene, or some other conceptual structure, recognize that your interactions with your customers should be arrayed across their interests and need-states, not yours. 

Here’s the bonus: when you do have the right stuff across all the key touch-points, your customers will spread the word for you. Make sure you measure for that kind of success. 

5) Involve your customers in creative development:  It’s time to rethink the standard “ the brand creates and customers react” model. If you’re selling to millennials – and pretty soon everybody will be – remember this is a group that has grown up with the Web, in a participative environment. 

Take a look at those briefs again. Are you inviting your crowd to join you in creating content? Consider inviting them in to your creative process from the “why” forward.

It’s time to move beyond the ad-blocking discussion to a higher plane of thought, and recognize that your creatives are actually heroes in waiting. They’ve long suffered under the current engineering, quantitative-dominated environment, but now they’ve got their moment to really create content audiences are craving. What I’ve proposed above – getting back to creativity – is really what they’ve wanted all along.

6 comments about "How To Lead A Purposeful, Ad-Blockless Life".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 28, 2015 at 10:16 a.m.

    Ad-blockers are a brute force method for killing all ads, not just the ones that abuse the customer. So if everyone follows your helpful, thoughtful suggestions, it's highly doubtful anyone will turn off their ad-blocker to rediscover advertising beneficence. Ad blockers are like tattoos. Permanent. Bad for advertisers, good for consumers.  Brands will have to find another way to communicate that cannot be blocked: outdoor, gas pump TV, high-end magazines, etc.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 28, 2015 at 10:46 a.m.

    Douglas, once again you seem to be proclaiming the idea that everyone thinks as you do and that, in consequence, everyone will adopt ad blockers for digital and, while they are at it, they will zap every TV commercial or, failing that, view only ad-free TV. Breaking news: not everyone agrees with you, not even those wonderful "Millennials" who will lead us to the promised land. I wonder, sometimes, if people who make these statements ever look at what factual evidence is readily available. Yes, a small minority just hates all ads----or so they say----but many people like ads and their avoidance, when it takes place, will, indeed be selective---like tuning out a TV channel which loads up too many ads per break and has too many breaks to start with. But your scenario, namely that advertisers---who you evidently despise----will have to adjust and go with outdoor billboards, gas pump TV and "high end" magazines is just a fantasy. It aint going to happen.

  3. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, October 28, 2015 at 11:01 a.m.

    I'm curious. Exactly which advertisers and ad agencies have been trying to make bad ads all this time? Name names.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 28, 2015 at 11:24 a.m.

    It doesn't matter how good they are, the frequency and repetition are gagging. Until you face the problem rather than shuffling it around to keep the profits up and justifying the existence of departments, it will rot your teeth (metaphor).

  5. Brian Nakamoto from Tightrope Interactive, Inc. replied, October 28, 2015 at 5:08 p.m.

    It also doesn't matter how good they are because there apparently aren't enough of these so-called "good" advertisers to satisfy everyone given how even premium publishers employ click bait ads.

  6. Yoav Naveh from ConvertMedia, October 28, 2015 at 10:53 p.m.

    Ad creative is clearly important for a positive online experience, but in my opinion it starts with publishers taking a a bigger part in making the user experience less intrusive while still being able to monetize their content.  Publishers need to be able to decide in real-time which ad experience makes the most sense to show - or not to show - at any given moment and look at that as a delicate balance between revenue and user experience.

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