'Value-Exchange': It's Only Of Value If I Really Want It

This week the Interactive Advertising Bureau launched some guidelines for what it's calling “opt-in value exchange” ads, which is a jargon-y way of explaining ads that you have to watch before you can get access to content you want.

In the rarefied air they breathe at IAB, consumers are thought to acknowledge the “value exchange” for getting content in exchange for sitting through an ad. The IAB even tossed out stats that show folks like these kinds of ads better than interruptive ads, and that they perform x% better than other ads. Blah, blah, blah.

IAB folks are careful to point out that the only reward users get is the content they wanted in the first place -- and not a bribe, like points toward progress in a game the consumer is not playing at the moment (sometimes called incentivized ads).

But the brand could offer a bribe if it is related to the content, like “engage with a brand message on a music app and immediately get xx hours of ad-free listening on that music app.”



The fact is, consumers are never happy to have the progress of their viewing, listening, reading or online navigation stopped by an ad, especially if it is for a product that is not appropriate for them (or that they have already seen 52 other times).

But this is exactly the risk marketers run by defining their target audiences in broad terms like women 18 to 35, or relying on the generally terrible and wrong digital data that puts some in an “audience segment” like “Has been to auto sites and viewed car ads in the past 10 days.”

If you are going to annoy consumers anyway by forcing them to watch your ad before they get the content they want, why not give them categories from which to pick an ad?

I know this has been tried up front lots of times, and never with great success, but with AI and so much marketing automation, there is no reason consumers can’t type in a Google-like search word into a box and see an ad for that particular kind of product. It's more likely that their choice would be something they are in-market for, so the results for sales or brand awareness should soar. 

And who wouldn’t pay big bucks to have category exclusivity on this site or that for broad terms like “refrigerators” or “river vacations”? 

Does this mean publishers have to have 50,000 ad spots in their vaults so they can serve an ad that approximates any request?  Nope, thanks to programmatic bidding, the ads are already out there. Just, someone smarter than me needs to figure out how to access them in a split second and compensate everyone in the food chain. I suspect it wouldn't be that hard.

The notion that consumers think everything should be free online overlooks the fact that they feel they have already paid for that access through broadband or mobile plan or cable fees.

A true value exchange is when the consumer really does value what you have to present.  

Giving them a choice just might earn that value.

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