In a Search Engine Land column, Group Twenty Seven CEO Pauline Jakober takes a deep dive into the multiple aspects of ad blocking, from software to user experience to responsibility for ad quality to the role of paid search agencies and more. It's the kind of detail and analysis that sets you up for what could seemingly be a truly workable solution to this very big problem.
Sadly, it's all foreplay and no payoff. Her solution? Quality over quantity. Yup, that's right. Better ads and fewer of them.
Of this notion, she writes: "A quality-over-quantity approach when it comes to displaying ads on a web page can address both the user experience and monetization goals if publishers perhaps sold less space but charged more for it. As a paid search executive (and someone who browses the web), I’d gladly accept a higher rate of advertising to create a better user experience for potential customers (and I’m sure many of my client advertisers would, too)."
Yes, in a bedtime story, this solution would work. But it won't work for the current hell in which we live where programmatic is driving prices down to insanely low levels and publishers are hurling more and more crap -- often in the form of native advertising or content marketing -- at people just so they can make ends meet. Is it really feasible for a publisher to say, "Yeah, sure. No problem. We'll reduce the number of ads we run because, yeah, those number-crunching media buyers and their programmatic cousins will be more than happy to send us twice the money for the same ad space."
And if Jakober really believes she'd "gladly accept a higher rate of advertising to create a better user experience" then she's in the minority if not completely alone.
Here's what's going to happen. Consumers don't give a crap about the bind in which publishers have found themselves. Consumers will continue to do whatever they can to avoid ads. Just ask a kid about Couch Tuner. Publishers and media companies will come to the realization the only way they can survive is to charge for content. And they'll do it masterfully like CBS just did launching a new Star Trek series available only on its All Access streaming service for $5.99 a month.
People pay for Amazon Prime. People pay for Netflix. People pay for Hulu. People are getting used to the notion of paying for content. Will advertising completely die? No, but perhaps all the idiotic clickbait crap and stupid reality shows that now litter the web and TV landscapes will dry up and blow away making room for actual content actual human beings actually want to see.
Jakober's solution is like telling people to pay $50 for a pair of socks at Neiman Marcus when they can get the same exact pair at Target for $10.
Sure, it'd be great if there were fewer ads that were of a higher caliber. But that's like asking every agency, brand and mom and pop operation to perform like an Olympic athlete. It's just not going to happen. If it did, everyone in the world would compete in the Olympics and every ad created would be Cannes Lions-worthy (I know, I know. Not the best reference but it's the best we've got).
So no, I do not believe the entire industry is going to come together Kumbaya-style and agree that less is more. Because when you come right down to it, it's dog eat dog and everyone in this business is going to continue to do whatever selfish thing they have to in order to survive.
I blame Walmart.