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Why I think that ad blocking is great (and I run an advertising agency)

Why I think that ad blocking is great (and I run an advertising agency)

The point when I realised that the furore around Ad Blocking had reached national consciousness was last week when my 71 year old, London taxi driving father (not Uber – a real cabbie!), asked me about ad blocking. It had been on the news.

Everyone (even, it seems, my dad) knows that Ad Blocking has come into existence because the intrusive, poorly targeted and ugly advertising that slows down page loading time is ruining experiences of internet users.

It seems that every day another development in the saga unfolds. Whether it is the media blocking the blockers (like Axel Springer and The Wall Street Journal), or publishers refusing to allow ads to be served through programmatic networks, or more hysterical tales of #adblockageddon – surely one of the worst hashtags in history.

But I LOVE ad blocking, it’s the best thing that could have happen for the media, for organisations wishing to advertise and for consumers seeing the ads.

At first, my father didn’t understand why. He knows that I run (dare I say it) a reasonably successful and well regarded digital advertising agency (well he sort of gets that I work in advertising) and so anything that could stop ads being shown to people must be bad, right?

But, as I explained to the back of my dad’s head (he was driving), consumers’ desire to block adverts has highlighted the fundamental problems that have arisen when you mix piss poor creative with a reliance on programmatic technology. It’s what happens when clients and agencies put the placement of adverts in front of eyeballs, ahead of the quality of the message and respect of the audience. You’ll get turned off. In large numbers.

We’re not stupid, we know that the content we wish to consume is not “free” at the point of reading. That content is paid for by the adverts served while we consume. We just don’t want our experience to be ruined while we consume it.

But blocking the ad blockers is not the solution for everyone. How do clients evolve to adapt. Lots of our more savvy clients have already addressed this, by becoming…

  1. More creative – the focus needs to be on what will inspire, not annoy

How can we do this? Think. Think about what they need and what you offer and what would make that offer simple to understand, with messages that cut through.

  1. Experts in data – irrelevance is the turn off; inspiring campaigns that resonate with the audience, providing them with something they actually want. That’s what improves the user experience (and conversion)

How can we do this? Through data. Active and Passive Data sets are your new best friends. Collect Active Data whenever you can opt in data from enquiries, sign ups, competitions, whatever creative way works. Collect passive data through site users, using remarketing codes, or better yet, your own DMP to capture, segment and track your audience behaviours.

Then use this data to power campaigns targeted using this custom audience data, or expanded with relevant lookalike audience campaigns.

  1. Customer (and your potential customers) first – knowing what makes them tick, what they want, what they need and how they want to get it. Only then can you serve them the messages they need

How can we do this? Two ways…Firstly, listen and learn, use analytics, insights and research. Use your own website analytics and 3rd party tools to find out what’s being said, by whom, where and when. Secondly, create audience personas, structure your data into useable audience segments, based on empirical behaviours.

  1. Extraordinarily targeted – An advert that is tailored to that person at that right time is the one that will resonate and cut through not turn off

How can we do this? Use the data. This biggest con of the past 18 months has been the concept of buying “programmatic advertising” as the solution to advertising.  And is the major contributor to the rise in ad blocking.

  1. Experts in programmatic advertising – you don’t need to be able to run programmatic advertising or use the technologies, but to run campaigns you have to at least know what it is and when it should be used

How can we do this? You can (and certainly should) buy certain media programmatically, as part of a marketing mix. But using programmatic technology as a lazy way to create and manage media buying as the only method of advertising is what has turned off consumers so vehemently that they have downloaded software to ensure that they cannot see these ads.

Spraying irrelevant adverts across a network of sites is not a tactic, it is a travesty. Those that do it, and those clients that encourage it, should be ashamed.

And now Google has (understandably) stepped into the fray, planning to disrupt everything with their AMP page project – overtly stating in WSJ article, Publishers might be free to use third-party ad tools, but Google said it intends to help ensure only ad formats that “do not detract from the user experience” are used within AMP pages.”

So this is why I love the Ad Blocking Phenomena. Because it has very quickly made everyone realise that this brief foray into madness and laziness cannot continue.

And I say this as an agency that has its own DMP. A DMP that links up to world leading DSPs (Display Side Platforms) so we can serve targeted adverts programmatically across certain media. I say this as an agency owner whose clients use our dedicated professionals to manage programmatic advertising as part of our mix of campaigns.

But that’s the point; it’s part of the mix. Part of the art of marketing, mixed with the new science of marketing technologies. Not the sole solution.

Even since drafting this, the venerable IAB (the trade association of the online advertising industry) has admitted that it “messed up” by encouraging automation and an industrialisation of advertising.

The Ad Blocking Phenomena has quickly affected a change and renewed appreciation for the art of advertising. Bringing back advertising to the right values some clients (and certainly some agencies) temporarily forgot. Values that place creativity, customers and outcome at the heart of good advertising.

I, for one, love ad Blocking. And now so does my dad.

What about you?