Fighting Won't Win the Battle For Consumers' Hearts and Minds

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Fighting Won't Win the Battle For Consumers' Hearts and Minds

Rather than staving off the threat of adblocking, advertisers should be looking at the very real opportunities to give consumers advertising they actually value, writes Adform's Rick Jones.


You're probably bored by now of reading about adblockalypse - the moment one year ago when Apple stunned the advertising industry by announcing that iOS would allow iPhone owners to block ads on Safari. Analysis of its aftermath has been plentiful, some commentators playing down its impact (based on flatlining adblocker user numbers), others continuing to suggest that without major changes consumers will abandon advertising altogether.


At times it seems as though the current discourse around the state of the advertising industry fluctuates between everything being rosy, versus the industry being on its death bed, neither of which is a helpful position. It's important that we assess the lay of the land rationally without either setting ourselves on fire or dousing ourselves in champagne.


Let's start with the obvious. Adblockalypse took many people by surprise because it involved mobile devices rather than desktop browsers, yet the reality is that digital is mobile. With global mobile usage now accounting for 60% of time spent online, we are well passed the tipping point, and yet we're not doing enough to distinguish mobile - most attribution tools continue to focus on online generally.


More fundamentally, we need to remind digital stakeholders that they are talking about people not devices. This is not a battle to bypass technology and sneak our way into consumers' digital lives - brands, agencies and their technology partners need to focus on designing campaigns because too much advertising is failing to entertain or inform consumers.


We can now use data and automation to reach consumers like never before, but if we aren't delighting them or providing some form of utility, it's no wonder that adblocking has gained prominence.


And of course, amidst the noise of the adblocking debate, it's easy to forget that the industry has also upset the legislators, with impending regulations and directives such as the European General Data Protection Regulation now posing a fundamental threat to data-driven marketing.


The answer is not to fight back, it is to collectively improve. Advertisers are actually spoilt for choice when it comes to creative and dynamic ad formats. Many of these formats increase engagement and may decrease the clicking of the ad blocker but we mustn't fall into the trap of assuming that just because the ad is an interesting format, the consumer will be instantly satisfied enough to resist the ad blocker.


An effective digital advertising strategy is realised when creativity, data and automation are united. Whatever ad format is being deployed, it has to include a relevant story - a narrative that is personal and inspiring for the consumer. We need a single snapshot of a consumer across all points of access (mobile, desktop, etc.) and we need to use this insight to improve the user experience and raise the standard of creative, otherwise we're going to annoy the hell out of them. Some campaigns are already achieving this standard; we need the wider industry to follow suit.


Stakeholders in the digital ecosystem also have to get out of the habit of over-promising the results they can deliver. Business models should not rely on false promises, and the resultant scramble to achieve the impossible is once again likely to have negative consequences for the consumer, not to mention the budget holder.


Despite what some might claim, the advertising ecosystem is not fundamentally broken. But too many buy and sell-side players are being short-termist in their relentless pursuit of reach and impressions at a time when a more sustainable approach is needed to bring consumers back into the fold.


Agencies working with advertisers should take responsibility for promoting best practice guidelines when it comes to digital advertising, and ad tech companies must be involved in this dialogue too. Ad tech guides agency, agency guides advertiser - sharing knowledge and experiences to enhance a consumer's advertising experience and journey.


Technology providers such as ourselves also need to lead the way in demonstrating openness and transparency about what's working and where things might need to change.


We have all of the tools we need to bridge the gap between creative and technology, so rather than focusing on staving off threats, advertisers should be looking at the very real opportunity that exists in our industry, namely, to combine data, programmatic and immersive storytelling and once more give consumers advertising they actually value.


Rick Jones is the UK general manager at Adform.


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