Ad Blocking: Simply A Symptom Of Advertising’s Lack Of Creativity
Columnist Rob Rasko believes that if we advertisers want to defeat ad blocking and truly engage consumers, we need to take a hard look at the quality and relevance of our messages.
This summer, my wife began binge-watching the show, “Parenthood.” Luckily for her (though not us advertising folks), the first four seasons were available to watch ad-free on Netflix. Season 5, however, is not available yet on Netflix, so she is now watching it on Hulu — commercials and all. (The horror!)
She recently said to me, “I feel like I’m in purgatory from all the years of skipping ads that I’ve done.” To make matters worse, she has become astutely aware that the same commercials seem to play over and over again.
As her loving husband, I completely empathize with her. But as the CEO of a consultancy which supports the content monetization and revenue strategy efforts of major media publishers, I see my wife’s frustration — which is shared by most consumers of content — as an opportunity for our industry to do better.
Her point made me wonder: Is all of the controversy about ad blocking really just about a lack of creativity in advertising? Have we focused too heavily on the “tech” part of our business and not enough on the advertising itself?
And if that’s the case, what is the ROI for creativity, anyway?
ROI Of Creativity
After 13 years in this business, I would argue that creativity is the most important component of effective advertising. Without it, potential consumers simply tune out the message, or worse, become frustrated by the fact that the messages they are hearing do not pertain to them directly.
My wife’s point made me wonder, when exactly do we notice ads, anyway? In her case, and in what I presume is most cases, it’s when they are not directly speaking to us, or when they so sorely lack the creativity and relevance to make an impact that we can’t help but notice how bad they are.
That brings us back to my earlier question: What is the ROI for creativity?
The current digital media landscape favors optimizations of ad delivery over truly relevant and grabbing messages. We need to get back to storytelling to win back the connection with the consumers.
The UK Leads By Example
Some of the best advertising in the world comes out of Great Britain, where there have been fewer ads on TV and online for years. Because British advertisers are regulated by different laws and standards from those in the US, the result is work that tends to be highly creative.
In the US, we have both the opportunity and the challenge to not only optimize our campaigns to smaller niche segments that we find in our data sets, but we also now need our messaging to catch up.
Just as necessity has pushed British advertisers to create ads that work within the parameters of their laws and culture, the parameters of American microcultures will someday give way to what I anticipate will be even better messages than ever seen before. To paraphrase “The Six Million Dollar Man“: We have the technology. We can make it better than it was.
The good news is that this should be fixable. Digital media has been touted as being easily trackable, scalable and relatively cheap in comparison to other media.
While all of these advantages have their place, the overwhelming frequency with which consumers are shown ads has led to annoyances that have closed the minds of consumers and driven them to ad blocking.
This prioritization of scalability and optimizations has led to consumers finding ways to ignore advertising messages altogether.
To get back to good, our industry needs to focus more on quality and relevance. You can have the most optimal channel with the best audience, but if the product or service is irrelevant or the message isn’t speaking the language of the consumer, none of the work to deliver that message matters.
The real reason why people are sick of advertising and have taken to ad blocking is because the ads they are viewing are lacking creativity and are often irrelevant. A one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t cut it anymore.
Fewer, Larger, More Engaging & Relevant Ads
Fewer, larger, more engaging and relevant ads are the key to defeating ad blocking. But we have to cure the disease, not just treat the symptoms.
The digital media industry also needs to do a better job of recognizing and respecting consumers’ breaking points.
There should be more realistic caps on how many times the same ad is shown over and over again. As my wife pointed out, it’s one thing to accept that advertisements are usually part of the deal when you’re consuming content, but to see the same message time and time again is overkill.
To compare to print, we don’t see the same ad every time we turn the page.
Just as the UK is sort of like the older, more experienced sibling of the US, we will grow up and evolve as the demands of consumers push us to do better, more creative work.