Are you an iPhone person, or an Android person?
I bet everyone has a quick answer and knows exactly which camp they fit into.
Are you an ad blocker person, or someone who lets ads in?
Again, I bet you’ve made a conscious choice one way or the other and you know which you are. Well soon that choice might be taken out of your hands as Google has announced that future versions of their Chrome browser will include ad blocking features. They have said it won’t block everything, just the “annoying” ads. And while there are plenty of those, this would make Google the arbiter of good taste which I am not entirely comfortable with.
The question is, how as an industry have we gotten here? And what happens next?
In my view, there are two factors to blame:
1) Bad quality and lazy creative work. I don’t think this really needs much explanation as I am sure we all know what I mean.
2) Ad placements that are focused on price rather than quality
In truth, despite the fact that I might not love Google as the arbiter of good taste, they have thrown the gauntlet down for two very good reasons and it is up to the industry to respond.
It is up to the industry to start thinking about the consumer and what they are doing so that our messages fit with their needs as oppose to interrupting their actions. After all, no one likes an ad that takes over your screen leaving you searching for the button to close it, or forces you to actually close the browser window altogether when you can’t figure out how to remove the ad you never wanted to see in the first place. Yet brands buy these ad formats all the time because they are sure to be seen.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client ask for exactly this sort of thing because the formats just can’t be ignored. My advice to them when they ask: don't prevent people from accomplishing their goals, find ways for your communication to augment their experience.
Google plans to become the judge of ‘good ads’ – but our industry should not allow this to happen
Speaking of clients not using ad formats well, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about programmatic. It is the largest ad tech trend and it’s a good buzzwords to increase the SEO score of the article right. But in seriousness, it is another example of ad serving technology that requires a hard look. Many clients today are buying programmatic media simply for cost efficiencies, and while it can do that, these clients are missing the point. The value of programmatic is to deliver different content to different audiences in a manner that can be optimized. This creates cost efficiencies, but equally it improves performance by serving better, more relevant creative meaning that both brand and consumer wins. But sadly, most people still don’t take advantage of the creative potential.
It’s our job as an industry to look at our own bad behaviors and root them out. It’s our job to help our clients make better decisions both for themselves and for their audience. It shouldn't take Google putting their foot down to make this happen.
But I do have hope. Because those “annoying” ads and the ad tech that drives them were the first generation of ad tech. Looking at the next generation I think there is a lot to be excited about. We are now moving from technology focused on cost to technology focused on Audience.
Kiip for example is a different kind of ad tech. They have been around for a while, but instead of interrupting a person’s action with an ad they don't want, Kiip allows brands to identify moments in mobile apps that deserve reward and then play a part in the moment. For example: you get a new high score on a game, kiip allows brands to recognize the achievement and give you a real-world reward.
Or Uru. They are an AI company that can position a brand logo into videos so they look natural. In essence allowing for “product placement” after the fact. And there are a huge number of AI companies that are working on ways to personalize and improve the “ad experience” for consumers. Using real data to learn exactly what would be useful or constructive messaging at that moment to empower consumer rather than interrupt them.
These companies and many other have me excited for the future of our industry. They show that ad tech offers a solution to the low quality and “annoying” ads we see today. They offer the opportunity to be more consumer centric while achieving brand goals, and more importantly to do this by opening new creative doors that let agencies get back to doing what we should be: delivering great creative work