Digital Marketing Can No Longer Hit 'Snooze' On This 'Wake-Up Call'

It has been a turbulent week in mainstream news as well as in digital marketing. Amid all the Google bashing that was the backdrop to this year's Advertising Week in London, however, it might have been easy to have missed the wake-up call the industry was given. It came in the form of Coalition for Better Ads report on user experience. The findings, to be honest, were entirely predicable -- but still, the message needs to conveyed so it can hopefully sink in. 

The Coalition was set up at Dmexco last year. I can still remember the call for brands to go along and sign up to add their weight behind the movement that wants to make digital advertising far less intrusive. Whether at the show, before or since, the coalition has done very well in attracting the big names in the world of huge-budget FMCGs such as P&G. The big publishers, Facebook and Google are onboard as well as industry bodies, such as the IAB.

Spend just five minutes online, either on desktop or mobile, and you will instantly realise what consumers find most annoying about their experience. For the record, the report revealed that the most annoying formats are pop-ups, videos which automatically play with the audio on and prestitials, which need to be engaged with before content can be consumed. I would have thrown in the tendency for sites to cover the screen with an invitation to rate them before you have had a chance to glance at a single page -- a little like asking someone to rate your marriage prospects the second you meet on a blind date.

In mobile, it was a similar tale, although as you can imagine, space is a major concern. Consumers find any form of advertising that takes over a third or more of the screen to be unacceptable, as were large animated, flashing ads.

It will come as little surprise that the preferred advertising formats are, in desktop, a slim bar down the side of the content and, in mobile, a small banner at the top of the page. 

The coalition is calling its report a "wake-up call" to the entire digital media industry, including publishers, networks, agencies, tech suppliers and brands. The research has been positioned as an opening statement to warn the industry what users find annoying so they can, to paraphrase the Coalition's President, "retire" the formats the public finds frustrating. It is then a stated aim of the Coalition to formulate advertising standards that users find acceptable.

That is the message, delivered in kid gloves in the form or research, but hopefully it still gets through. The harsh reality is that if adland doesn't wake up to the annoyance caused by the more intrusive forms of advertising, ad blockers are there to help users get around the issue for them. 

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