Digital ads are on the rise. So is ad blocking. Is the system broken?

Thoughts from Shoshana Eilon, Dave Dye, Simon Collister and Nigel Roberts

Digital ads are on the rise and ad blocking is increasing as well. Clearly, the system isn’t working, for advertisers or consumers. If it is broken, what should marketers be doing to fix things? We turned to people in our network for advice and guidance.

Shoshana Eilon — COO at ThoughtLeaders

Shoshana Eilon

If you have recently tried to read a news article on your phone you will know that the current system is deeply broken. Between the car advert that immediately starts autoplaying, the links to questionable advice about gut health, and the patterned leggings that the algorithm has inexplicably targeted for you, the experience is ugly, frustrating and exhausting. As a consumer I am fed up. As a marketer I’m convinced that whatever CPMs these advertisers are paying for these display ads, they are being short-changed. Is this approach really generating any sales? And do those sales compensate for these ads ruining the internet for the rest of us? No wonder people are turning to ad blockers. Marketers need to start getting creative. We need to make the kinds of ads that audiences want to actively engage with; because they offer value, humour, or entertainment. Think about all those people who made the pilgrimage across New York City to see the billboards for Jeremy Allen White’s Calvin Klein ad in the flesh. Digital marketers need to channel that same energy, and make ads that people want to seek out, rather than skip.

Dave Dye — Partner at THINGY Creative & Design

Dave Dye

People won’t hear your message if they don’t watch your ad.
They won’t watch your ad unless there’s something in it for them.
We need to look at what people choose to watch.
Nobody flips onto Netflix for something patronising, dull and hard to follow.
If we create ads that make people laugh, cry, think and thrill, maybe they’ll choose to watch them.

Simon Collister PhD — Director at UNLIMITED’s Human Understanding Lab

Simon Collister

The proliferation of media channels and platforms in the digital media world has meant that consumers are increasingly bombarded with content – whether that’s branded editorial or advertising. Ad blocking is a symptom of this wider problem, but not the solution. For example, neuroscience tells us people like being entertained when they see content that generates an emotional response. Good ads — like good content — do just that. Further research suggests that people like watching ads when they are relevant and interesting to them. So instead of brands worrying about whether consumers will block or skip their ads, they should be investing in smart research that will give them the insights they need to craft powerful ad content that engages and entertains. These tools are readily available. We use neuroscience techniques to get a deeper understanding of the qualities that creative content should really leverage to connect and engage consumers at a deeper, emotional level. Layering this level of human insight into brand creative output helps ensure consumers are actively switching their ad blockers off rather than on.

Nigel Roberts — Creative Partner at Orange Panther Collective

Nigel Roberts

It’s hardly surprising that ad blocking is on the up, when, let’s be honest, the originators of most online ads just don’t seem to give a monkey’s about earning people’s appreciation. But why is so much online advertising like that? I always thought we were supposed to make advertising that people noticed and liked, so that they’d like the brand that made it and choose their product. That was always the plan, wasn’t it? But the thinking is that digital, being targeted, is speaking to an already receptive audience. So relax. And ‘the funnel’ that’s so firmly embedded in every media plan says that ‘awareness’ is enough. So just show up. Buy eyeballs. That’ll do.

But it doesn’t, does it? If all it does is create noise and clutter that interrupts and annoys people so much that they can’t even just ignore it, then yes, the system that creates it is broken. It’s making people want to ignore all advertising. And it’s putting businesses off advertising agencies. So we need to stop perpetuating it. Digital is an opportunity to connect, not a right. And every touchpoint is an ambassador for the brand. Why would anyone want a boring, lazy or annoying one?

Featured image: Junior Teixeira / Pexels