Ad blocking – an inevitable trend or a lesson in the core principles of marketing?

Posted by Guest On May 24, 2016

Ever since the first ad from Coca Cola in 1886 or when the founder of my first employer, Unilever, made the celebrated quote about advertising in 1925, “I know half my advertising isn’t working, I just don’t know which half,” some key marketing principles have remained true.

Marketing communication as pioneered by Coca Cola and Unilever is about insight, relevance and engagement.  In digital, these core principles still hold up.  What’s even better about digital is that the brand or their agency can get real time data on what’s working and what is not.

Equally, the world of agile, lean and software means that campaigns can be tested, iterated and optimized. There are still plenty of examples of digital media being executed with analogue execution: You make the creative, execute the digital display ads and then review it in two weeks. When in reality, we are fully able now to execute A/B testing on creative and review campaigns on a daily, if not hourly, basis until engagement levels are optimized.

But when it comes to brand owners and agencies, who actually is doing just that?

None of us are fans of getting irrelevant communication at the wrong time with the wrong message.  And this is part of the real challenge in digital advertising and the major factor in the rise of ad blocking.

In the world of marketing automation, data (and therefore personalization) we should all be able to reduce the number of unwanted digital ads.  As an industry, we need to set and expect a quality standard.  Why?  Because it is in the interest of the consumer and therefore in our own interests.

It is all somewhat reminiscent of when music downloads began.  Many of the labels were slow to engage and as a result, illegal file sharing grew rapidly.  The simple truth is that our job is to serve the consumer and give them the experience they want.  Labels recognize this now as streaming grows to become a major driver of revenue.

Whilst the media agency and publisher focus on running their business is understandable, we all have a common interest in safeguarding the quality of the digital display category.

From a consumer perspective, if you are in the market for a product like a jacket for winter and if we know your gender and your needs, then a display ad showing a range and some offers make total sense.

The outright banning ad blockers is likely not the best way forward, or even achievable.  A smarter route is to:

  • Start a conversation with an ad blocker
  • Demonstrate that you don’t want to spam the user
  • Accelerate a program of ad format innovation to find the best formats
  • And (most importantly) set a standard for creativity, relevance and targeting.

The ‘LEAN’ & ‘DEAL’ principles developed by the IAB make good sense.  They need to be tested and piloted here with both focus and pace. Reading through all the debates and conferences on the topic, it appears we’re all saying the same thing.  It’s all about the user and their experience.  Let’s not forget the core tenets of all good marketing.

(The above is a personal perspective.)