Ad blocking has been the one trend developing throughout 2015. Not only has Apple launched mobile ad blocking on its new phones and iOS updates, but more and more consumers are embracing ad blocking. The IAB announced last month that ad-blocking tools were on the rise (with one in seven people in the UK having installed an ad blocker). I have even heard of children as young as pre-school knowing that you need to click "skip ad" on YouTube, despite being unable to read, in order to get to the content they want, but where is this leading us?
Now, despite what many people think -- the Internet isn’t free. In order to continue to use and enjoy the free services we use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter etc. we have an agreement to trade off our data when we use those services -- we trade the data that we exude on those platforms, for a service that we don’t have to pay for. Advertising has, for a very long time, funded the content that we consume, for free.
There is no doubt that bad advertising technology is slowing down the Web, crossing privacy boundaries and can be deemed as annoying. But good advertising can be effective, fun and engaging for its audience. However, good advertising is difficult to come by, and that’s a big problem that all agencies and brands need to address.
Firstly, it is important to agree that without advertising, the Internet would be very different place; full of paywalls, paid for email as well as other services such as Google Maps and Apple Pay. There would be very few online newspapers, virtually no professional videos and people wouldn’t dedicate as much to blogs and other self-driven content. The other alternative is a state-funded platform, but given the current conversations around the BBC, that’s probably an avenue best left alone. From this grim forecast it’s easy to see that advertising is important to the future of the Internet -- whether we like it or not -- given that it is important to any content (be that radio, television, or newspapers) that we’ve consumed for more than a century.
Advertising technology however, is another story. It has enabled us to be a lot more specific with who we put advertising in front of, and when. This, however, brings with it a responsibility from advertisers, and advertising and media agencies -- they must ensure that they are using the data which they have at hand to deliver better, more interesting and relevant advertising, to the people who want it, where and when they find it most appropriate.
If we haven’t already, then I believe we will soon arrive at a crossroads with regard to digital advertising and the rise of ad blocking. However, now advertisers finally have the ability to find the right person, at the right time, with the right message, it feels like a new agreement is needed between advertisers and consumers. A rewritten advertising and consumer charter. It’s a simple agreement, that states that consumers will stop using ad blockers, but in return, advertisers must put more effort into ensuring that they find the right person, at the right time, with the right message, rather than a "pay and spray" approach.
Increasingly, the future of all media sits at the nexus of data, content, and technology -- but the advertising industry must ensure that all three are used properly, otherwise it is just creating more noise in an already overcrowded world.