John Lynch

You can skip this ad in 5 seconds

You can skip this ad in 5 seconds! A statement that sums up the reality of our great leap forward in advertising over the last decade. 10 years ago we were talking about the death of intrusive advertising, it was to be 'single customer conversations' not mass consumer broadcasting. The promise of digital and particular data was going to make all ads 100% relevant. So what happened?

If it was just down to data why would that data super heavyweight, Google, be offering an opt-out option on pre-rolls? The fact is that ads seem as intrusive as even with all the data available. Why? I propose one fundamental point, they need to be intrusive to work?

You don’t wake up every morning wanting to buy a car or pizza. It needs to be suggested to you. Yes there are clever ways to tap you on the shoulder, but initially there is always the door step, the intro, the sell, the reaction and hopefully the payoff. But if you are trying to expand your market share every 'payoff' is the product of persistent pestering ‘look-at-me’ messages that vie for your headspace. And whats more, the majority of consumers understand that this is the price of media. It's a value exchange where they get free content in return for being doorstepped. They just think that they can side step your doorstepping. Who clicks on ads anyway I hear them say :) 

However there are the few, the rebels. Individuals who muster up the torch bearing mob and attempt to upset the natural balance. Their demands are a free lunch with no strings attached. Their slogan is 'ad blockers for all'. It's like saying, yes I will turn up to the party, eat and drink as much as I want but don't expect me to bring anything or engage with the hosts friends

Its simply not on! Everyone knows there is no such thing as a free party or lunch. So why is the panic of a looming apocalypse for ad-dependent publishers continuing to build. What are their options outside of installing ad-blocking-blocking software and starting an ad blocking arms race?

Well you could blatantly tell them their banned from the party if they bring their ad blocking friends along and refuse to engage. This is what Yahoo did this In October.  Dozens of rebels in return took to the 'virtual streets' (web forums and social media) to complain that they were blocked from their Yahoo email accounts unless they switched off their ad blockers. WE WANT A FREE LUNCH they chanted. 

But was Yahoo right? Someone in the Yahoo board room said 'we don't want these rebels anyway' and the majority agreed. But but they are pissing off a vocal group and more importantly exposing that unwritten value exchange rule which should not need to be spelt out. You can't in short be seen to be be forcing ads on people. It's a bad customer experience and therefore it's bad for brands.

So what can you do? in my opinion, the best plan is as follows.

1. Sit tight and keep your nerve. Let the storm pass. Ad blockers are just the next treat in a long line. Think VCR, DVDs, DVRs, pop-up ad blockers, P2P sites and more ‘game changing’ consumer technological threats that turned out to be largely harmless and even beneficial in some cases. Yes the growth of Ad blockers is high, but from a small base. 200MM people, that's not even all the innovators yet. A bigger problem for publishers to fix should be click fraud and the ads not appearing at all.

2. Find other options. Point one is not saying do nothing. Consider new ways to reduce traditional web display ads especially on mobile sites where real estate is so limited. Look to generate revenue through sponsorships or so-called native advertising or something else. Look at ads as a message simply showing up at the perfect time.

3. More data. Keep leveraging smart data to identify intent prior to broadcasting that ad or pre-roll. Yes you will always bother some people with products and services they will definitely never buy, but anything that brings you closer to real intent with reduce that friction. The value of the ad experience will rise, it’s just that consumers won’t realise this. 

4. Be creative. Advertisers always need to lift their game. Just throwing your TV ad on Youtube is not the optimal way. This is especially important for Mobile as mobile video views continue to jump YOY, with facebook daily video views alone are @ 4B! Yes intrusive ads are all about awareness but successful intrusion is about the positive brand experience that follows that intrusion. Use both data, channel knowledge and a big dose of creativity to excite, delight, amaze and surprise.

So if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it my marketing friend. 


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John Lynch Digital Ministry John Lynch
Company: Digital Ministry
Position: Editor
Involved in the digital media and Marketing industry for many years, through working at the Economist Group (uk), Universal McCanns, Zivo, emitch, OneDigital, IBM (client side), & now TBWA NY Now in Bath, UK working as a consultant

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