You can’t read anything having to do with marketing these days without running into some mention of ad blocking. It seems as if the entire industry is wringing its collective hands about the revenues lost due to the blockers. It doesn’t seem, however, that there has been a great deal of discussion about how the problem came to be. I’m not going to regurgitate a blow-by-blow of the last couple of years in ad tech, but there are a few important points that are worth pointing out.
The first, and foremost, is that actions have consequences. You probably tell your kids that all the time but as an industry we seem to have forgotten. Publishers are cramming more and more advertising onto a page. But that action may be the result of the downward push of pricing that’s a function of the rush to programmatic buying. Rather than paying for quality, marketers seem more concerned with a lower CPM. That’s a nasty set of actions.
The consequence of popups, cluttered pages, and slow load times, married to incessant retargeting (which means we’re being tracked!) is ad blocking. According to one survey, 51% of US internet users agree that companies are too often intrusive on social media. Another survey says they feel all of the push notifications we send out are not relevant or are intrusive. There is that word again: intrusive.
The single biggest change in marketing and media over the last decade has been that consumers have all of the control. They don’t watch the prepackaged lineups that networks have been feeding for almost a century (if you take the dawn of commercial radio as the beginning). The world is now user-controlled and curated. Why would an intruder be welcomed? Why are marketers and consumers in conflict, when one’s entire mission is to help the other to make informed buying decisions?
No answers today, just guidance. We need to stop intruding. Even the best creative messaging is intrusive when you see it for the 23rd time in a week. We need to help publishers provide an environment in which the consumer feels welcome, and the only way to do that is to reduce clutter by paying for the value the publishers provide. Not every empty space is screaming for an ad. Some folks are getting it – Turner says they’re reducing ad time on some networks. Let’s see who is wise enough to follow.
I’ve admitted to using ad blocking myself. It’s not a great experience – pages break or won’t load fairly often – but it’s better than the minute and a half load times I’d face otherwise. It’s doing a decent job of keeping the intruders at bay, and the odds are the walls are going to get higher if we don’t change as an industry. Our actions have consequences and those consequences are becoming more clear every day.