Advertisers have lost more than $22 billion, due to ad blocking technologies. Many blame the ad-blocking phenomenon on the explosive “success” of programmatic.
MediaPost's OMMA Programmatic forum held in New York City today brought together Essence's Jesse Cahill, MediaCom's Steve Cardone, Neo@Ogilvy's Alejandro Correa, and Razorfish's Brian Leder in a panel moderated by 360i's Belinda Smith. They discussed the ways tech and creative can work together to build the lighter, more inspired storytelling that attracts rather than repels consumers.
The panelists were in agreement about what drove consumers to embrace ad blockers. Ads eat up mobile data plans through slow load times and overloaded pages, while automation makes it easier to buy irrelevant ads that interrupt user experiences.
That’s created an environment where consumers have said enough. "I would go back to build a time machine," says Cahill, head of media, North America, digital, Essence. "There's no one-stop shop [to fix ad blocking]."
The panelists didn’t appear to have high hopes for the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) new L.E.A.N. Ads program — light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads. They are designed to serve as a set of standards to combat ad blockers by speeding up page loads and limiting trackers that collect data without delivering targeted and relevant ads.
While it is too soon to officially weigh in on this approach, the initial strategy seems to be misguided, said the panelists. "I say L.E.A.N. is still in beta or alpha," says Cahill. "It is not definable. What are acceptable ads to consumers?"
One criticism with the program is that it is dividing publishers and content creators, instead of bringing them together. The guide's final recommendation is for publishers to turn away advertisers that don’t meet its standards.
However, they say publishers are just as responsible for this problem, since they are responsible for overloading their sites with ads in order to maximize revenue. "This is not a content problem," said Leder, SVP media, Razorfish. "It's about context relevancy. [Fewer] ads on the page brings greater ROI and is a direct correlation to effectiveness."
In fact, content may serve as the answer to ad blocking. "You need to provide value in the ad space," said Carbone, chief digital and analytics officer, MediaCom. His agency, for instance, wraps ads around relevant content, such as providing recipes on food sites.
Razorfish recently had success with Mercedes for a native campaign that provided cars to five millennial-aged influencers. They drove these cars around posting "compelling" content. This project is credited with helping the luxury car maker age down its audience, says Leder.
Correa, director, operations, Neo@Ogilvy agrees that sponsorships are great ways to encourage viewers to see ads. There's also the possibility within Facebook's Instant Articles platform to deliver viewable ads, he says.
Cahill recommends a "patch work approach" with the creative team focusing on developing "beautiful stories regardless of the screen" and the tech side delivering "frictionless" solutions, while the media team provides clients with a “user first perspective."
It isn't just programmatic executives that are worried about this issue. Ad blocking is a top discussion point for everyone in the industry, the panelists said. Correa jokes that eve some of his clients use ad blockers.
Clients, however, seem to say one thing, but act in another manner.
Brands want to make the experience better, but when the "rubber hits the road," they still want the expanding ad running across the screen, says Cahill. "There is a disconnect between [what they say their intentions are] and the actual campaign in the real world."
The TV and music industries may serve as guides for finding answers. Many within the TV industry panicked when TiVo first came onto the scene. The emphasis on live events may make viewers less inclined to block ads.
Email is another channel that faced similar woes, says Correa. "There were mass emails and then spam blockers and eventually, it all consolidated into one channel."
Correa believes that ad blockers will serve as the ultimate challenge for this industry to develop content that actually makes people want to see them. "We need to deliver ads to the ad blockers," he says.