How do you get better at targeting people who are ignoring you? That wasn't my first question to many digital media gurus this week, but rather my second. The first was asking how brands can deal with the fallout from ad blocking, viewability and fraud issues. The follow-up was necessary because so many people out there are saying, as their main piece of advice, that you get around the clearly evident problems of digital display by getting better at it. By that they mean better targeting of more relevant ads.
This brings us back to the proverbial square one. How do you get better at targeting people who don't want to be targeted and who are actively taking steps toward barring your ads? You could presumably be the best in the world at targeting and offering relevant, compelling offers and calls to action to the most appropriate audience -- and they would never know because they had tuned you out.
The question gained even more relevance last week when it became clear that Microsoft is on a course that will allow third-party ad blocking through its Edge browser. The move will mean all the major browsers offer plug-ins that allow ads to be blocked. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the tech allows ads to be blocked unless the advertiser has paid to be let through. The art of ad blocking is, you see, a very modern protection racket.
My point in asking experts in the London scene what brands should do was to get an idea whether my feeling is correct. To me, display will always be important -- that's pretty obvious. Billions of dollars of investment will not just suddenly disappear. However, its reach is obviously limited, particularly among the young and males. Although the IAB UK puts ad blocking at around one in seven, some estimates reduce this to one in three Millennial males.
So common sense would dictate that brands, right here and now must be devising ways of getting around distraction at the end of the screen to become part of the content flow itself. Red Bull Media House, for example, last week signed a deal to be on the Reuters Media Express distribution channel. It stands to reason that brands have to be upping their native advertising and social games, doesn't it? Perhaps outdoor, direct mail or experiential should be looked at for possible new ways of reaching consumers?
I mention these suggestions simply because so much of the feedback from the digital media industry is to just keep on plowing away at display. That's probably fine to protect the status quo -- and, by getting more targeted and relevant, stop more people blocking ads. However, it's way too late for, say, one in three male Millennials. As blocking becomes ever more available, it stands to reason that brands have to be agile and consider how they can achieve what they hope to do through display by supplementing the channel with other routes to market where they are front and center.
If you carry on with your preexisting mind set and that success will be yours if you get better at display, then I'm afraid we're back to that same tricky question that no guru has yet been able to answer. How do you get better at targeting people who are ignoring you? If you seriously think the answer is more display, albeit better and improved, you are seriously deluding yourself. That answer has to be in supplementing display, not shoving more down the throats of those who have switched it off. Doesn't it?