Direct Line's Marketing Director summed up the argument to Campaign that while the power of the Internet creates new possibilities, we are still just spraying static banners around the Web. A Direct Line ad supporting plumbing insurance and featuring a room filling up with water was cited as being the better kind of use eye-catching creative that will appeal to people. The assumption is that this will tackle ad blocking.
So we're right back where we were at the start of the week when I called out the brands that were flogging themselves over the need to improve digital advertising to avoid ad blocking becoming even more of an issue. The simple fact is that the horse has bolted, with around one in five or one in seven Internet users already blocking ads, depending on whose research you trust and which territory you are looking at. So it's already a massive issue.
The obvious point here is that it doesn't matter what you do -- these people have already tuned out. I cannot tell you how many times I've had this conversation with people who are just spouting out the company line that better ads will reverse ad blocking. They will not -- because no matter what you do, ad blockers will never know.
Here's another point. Is the reason people start to block ads really because they are not creative? Surely ads that do more "whizzy" things, like fill up a picture of a room with water to advertise a plumber, are more likely to catch the eye -- and arguably, be seen as intrusive by those who are of that mindset.
No -- there are two issues here. There truly are people out there who want a free ride. They want content to appear from nowhere, free of charge, without any need to repay the publisher by allowing the article to be supported by advertising. There are also publishers who, perhaps out of desperation, allow too many adverts and take on placements that are intrusive. A lot of people will blame the networks here, too. Sure, they've got a case to answer but if publishers didn't put so many intrusive spots on their sites, the low quality "spray and pray" tactics which the networks facilitate would be less of an issue.
The real solution, as i have always said, is to ban the blockers. Just don't give them free content for nothing. Offer the chance to disable their blocker or send them on their way. The other solution is that publishers need to be the reader's friend and not run intrusive ad units that are either too numerous and distracting or cover over content. And please, no automatic playing of audio on video -- it's just plain rude and intrusive.
There you have it. The responsible brands that partially blamed themselves for ad blocking last week have been joined by creatives. But neither is the main culprit here. It's simple -- this is the result of publishers getting tough on ad blockers and then being the reader's friend.