All the discussion about programmatic advertising has typically focused on the relationship between advertisers and publishers with the consumer a distant third.
Even the terms used to describe consumers’ interactions with digital advertising (target audiences, demographics, brand impressions, viewability statistics) paint a rather analytical definition, removing the human characteristic from the discussion.
It’s time to put the consumer front and center of digital advertising.
With the proliferation of ad blocking, it’s becoming increasingly obvious (and worrisome) to advertisers and publishers that we are losing consumers’ interest and acceptance of digital advertising.
In 2016, approximately 200 million internet users around the world were using ad blocking software. The previous year, ad blocking had resulted in a $22 billion loss in advertising revenue. Now, it is expected to reach $35 billion in 2020 if publishers and advertisers don’t do something about it.
The increase makes it clear that consumers’ frustration is growing with what they consider invasive ads that are of poor quality or irrelevant to their interests.
To combat the rise of ad blockers, companies are creating ad blocker blockers, so we seem to be entering an endless cycle of blocking countered by anti-blocking. This isn’t a solution. It further complicates the advertising ecosystem, creating more problems for advertisers, publishers and consumers.
Instead, energy should be spent by both advertisers and publishers to create a better user experience so that consumers aren’t cornered into using ad blockers at all. If we don’t, we will continue to lose consumers’ trust and acceptance of digital advertising as a legitimate form of advertising. There’s a limited window of opportunity to get it right and invite consumers back to the digital advertising space.
Better understanding consumers’ ad preferences
To ensure greater compliance and respect of consumers, leading international trade associations and companies in the online media ecosystem have joined together to create the Coalition for Better Ads (www.betterads.org). Their research provides important data, measuring how consumers view different online ad experiences, highlighting what’s working well and what needs to be rethought to secure more meaningful consumer engagement. This is a welcome development in the industry but there’s so much more advertisers and publishers can do.
Starting with better creative
Both advertisers and publishers are trying to get the formula right in terms of formats, placement and frequency. This is all well and good but at the core should be outstanding creative that offers compelling design and relevant messages, targeted to a consumers’ specific interests. If we are to attract and hold their interest, we must present compelling creative that doesn’t invade but rather discreetly engages without overshadowing editorial content.
Precise targeting to ensure relevance
Targeting and retargeting capabilities are getting better all the time, offering detailed data to better understand customer’s demographics, preferences and behavior. As more companies, particularly smaller ones, enter the digital advertising sphere, they should take full advantage of these targeting and retargeting capabilities to effectively showcase their brands to customers who are most interested.
Respect for shorter attention spans
Today’s consumers are increasingly mobile, grabbing their news, entertainment and information from laptops, iPads and cell phones as they dash to work, meetings, school and family events and any number of other daily activities. Securing their focus and attention is proving to be more difficult.
While the temptation might be to shower consumers with ads, research has confirmed that if you present consumers with too many ads, it has a counter effect and you are further diluting their attention span and interest and increasing their frustration with not only the ads themselves but the website that carries them. The lesson is to commit to fewer, but more highly targeted ads.
Greater adoption of standards and regulations
It’s encouraging that organizations like the Coalition for Better Ads are developing research data to support the creation of better, high-quality advertising that complies with internationally accepted standards. There is much more publishers and advertisers can and should do to create a more mature, controlled and transparent industry. If we are to capture the hearts and minds of consumers, we must first win back their trust. It’s the only true fire way to shift the needle away from ad blocking.