Smart Ways to Make Ad-Blockers Irrelevant

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A Q&A with Alex Yoder, CEO at Trueffect

Q: Studies show consumers’ increased adoption of ad blocking. Why do you think that’s the case, and do you foresee that ad blocking will continue to accelerate?

A: We know that consumers are using ad blockers at the rate they are because publishers—intentionally or unintentionally—continue to inundate them with ads. More specifically, a recent study revealed astoundingly low performance on ad resonance—only 2.8% of consumers thought that ads on websites were relevant to them.

While digital interactions provide a truly robust platform that advertisers and their partners can use to explore all types of formats and targeting capabilities, the industry as a whole hasn’t exhibited great restraint when it comes to serving ads. In other words, the industry hasn’t taken a step back and asked itself, ‘What effect is all this ad tech innovation having on a user’s experience?’ As a result, users’ online experience has degraded over the years, causing the increase in ad blocking trends we’re seeing today.

I believe strongly that as with many issues we have encountered before, our industry will solve for the current challenges with ad blocking. While we may see usage rise in the immediate term, the combination of today’s on-going discourse about this issue, the creation of industry-wide ad blocking committees, and launch of proactive solutions makes me confident that this too, shall pass.

Q: Industry thought leaders have varied on proposed solutions for ad blocking. What do you think is required to solve this problem?

A: To date, many industry pundits have evangelized the need for better creative as the silver bullet to solving ad blocking. However, that’s only one component. We need to dig beneath the surface and move past the notion that if we just create better ads, ad blocking will go away. Separately, others have gravitated to the idea of tech solutions that prohibit ad blockers—but this rides a fine line between respecting users’ expressed rejection of ads and the industry’s need to monetize digital media to survive.

We need to dig deeper.

The core issue is that consumers are no longer enjoying their online experience. Rob Schwartz, CEO at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York noted that while bad advertising has always existed, “Many of my Internet experiences are like the feeling I get when I arrive in Las Vegas. It’s a barrage of messaging.”

To solve this problem, it’s always been our position to give advertisers the most direct relationship with their consumers. A powerful enabler of this 1:1 connection with consumers is right under our noses: an advertiser’s own first-party data. Advertisers’ first-party data gives them significant advantage because it’s their own data that competitors will never have access to and and persists across devices.

By properly leveraging first-party data in the development and execution of digital campaigns, brands are empowered to deliver the most relevant content and frequency of ad exposure. Therefore, consumers’ experience not only become much more valuable to the end user, but also much less interruptive. By shifting towards the mindset of quality versus quantity, the more irrelevant ad blocking will become.

Q: Apple’s recent enablement of ad blocking apps with iOS 9 prompted quick, significant backlash among the media and ad tech community. How do you think Apple, Google and other major players’ ad blocking strategies will continue to impact digital advertising?

A: Consumers openly embraced Apple’s most recent implementation of ad blocking. Their immediate response gave a clear signal to the digital media industry that the entire online ad experience—from the content being served to how frequently they’re being exposed—just isn’t resonating with them. This level of feedback, while potentially painful from a monetization perspective across the ecosystem, is invaluable and necessary for our industry. Consumers are sending a loud and clear message that the ad experience should be unique, making it a perfect time for publishers, advertisers, and tech partners to listen, engage and take action.

Apple, Google and others’ future ad blocking initiatives will only force the industry’s hand at developing a more consumer-friendly ad infrastructure and more relevant content; thus strengthening its foundation and value proposition to consumers. Google’s recent Customer Match announcement only further validates the growing significance of first-party data in this equation. Advertisers increasingly seek ways to make their messaging more relevant, and first-party data helps empower that 1:1 connection.

Q: By the end of next year, what do you think will be the state of ad blocking from both a consumer’s perspective and ad tech standpoint?

A: While ad blocking will never be fully eradicated, I optimistically believe the industry will have significantly chipped away at the larger issues causing this trend. It’s already beginning with the dialogue we’re having now—why is this happening, and what are the nuances behind consumers’ increased adoption of ad blockers?

According to FalconSocial, people understand the role that ads plan in the world-but how do you craft messaging that hits relevant people, without being ignored? Heineken, who is ramping it’s digital spend from 9% to 50% of its total marketing in three years, has found the answer through 1:1 engagement at scale. As ad tech matures, advertisers will become increasingly empowered to deliver more relevant messaging that efficiently builds long-term loyalty. In turn, in the future, I anticipate that consumers will increasingly find ad blockers irrelevant.

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