What Comes After Ad Blocking? A Call To Creativity

LAKE TAHOE, CA -- During a panel on ad blocking at MediaPost’s Programmatic Insider Summit here, participants were divided on what a post-ad blocking ad experience looks like.

“We see ad blocking as a call to creativity, not just a call to technology,” said Brandon Geary, Chief Strategy Officer, at WPP aency Possible. “There needs to be more emphasis on putting the creators together with the buyers again. Programmatic hasn’t just made media arguably more opaque to advertisers, it’s made it opaque to creators again.” He added: "We need to being talking about content and not just the ad unit in terms of the ad blocking conversation.” 

“There’s this dance where new technology comes out, marketers want to use it, and sometimes exploit it and then users push back,” said Craig Key, SVP of Media, space150. “Consumers will dictate what kind of ad products are going to be acceptable or not. We need to explore a diverse set of tactics to connect with consumers.”

The focus should be on consumers. “The customer always wins. Programmatic has been a bright, shiny object. Let’s not block the ad blocker. We need to find a way to re-engage with audiences again,” said Nikin Patel, director, Digital, MEC.

“We’re in a very transitional period right now. Advertisers need to do a better job of helping the ecosystem create better content,” said Lindsay Pullin, director, Programmatic Media, Empower MediaMarketing. “We don’t want to force people to block ads. We need to create a better experience — Snapchat is doing a good job,” she said.

As for ad-blocking responses from the likes of Google and Facebook, Patel said that for the time being, ad blockers are there to block banners. “That market is incredibly fragmented. Google and Facebook can do what they do because they essentially ‘own’ the market. It would be difficult for us to identify one or two players on the publishers’ side that can make those kinds of changes. I personally don’t think we have the equivalent of a Google or a Facebook in the programmatic market.”

Key urged smaller publishers to focus on innovation and not to just keep “blocking the ad blockers.”

Pullin emphasized that consumers need to understand and be educated on the value exchange: “Content isn’t free. You have to remind consumers that you can’t get content unless you remove your ad blocker.” She explained that Google and Facebook are actively doing that kind of education and reminding people to turn off their ad blockers. Hearst and other publishers are dabbling in the same approach. Pullin views these as “quick fixes.” You can “view our content, but please disable your ad blocker.”

With regard to the mobile monetization challenge, Possible’s Geary said that Gifs are units that are routinely dismissed as viable ad units. “While Giphy isn’t monetizing its assets, a gif is an ideal mobile unit. It’s among the most shared pieces of social currency today,” Geary said. “Publishers need to work more directly with creative agencies on native advertising campaigns. Why aren’t these simple things that are well-shared well-integrated into publishers’ feeds? We have to figure out how to get there.”

Key mentioned that he frequently advocates that his clients spend more money for quality ad experiences. For example, he cited a mobile campaign his agency did for Buffalo Wild Wings that alerted consumers by text when they were within 2.1 miles away from a store.  Messages alerted customers that it was “Wing Tuesday, swing by.” While texts can annoy people, location-based marketing is effective. “We will gladly pay higher CPMs for a better [ad] experience.”

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