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.