Ad blocking: an opportunity to do better

I recently came upon a post regarding ad blocking, a subject that I have always thought should be shifting how we as marketers look at our role, not just in the marketing landscape, but in the larger scope of consumer culture. It was an interview with a young ad blocking consumer that delved beyond simply “I don’t want to see ads.”

I love the lesson there. Ad blocking is nothing new, and honestly, who can blame a single twenty-something-year-old for feeling resentful that they are forced to watch a 30-second ad about baby diapers when all they really want to do is sample a few seconds of comedy or music to see if they even want to commit to watching a few minutes of entertainment? Think about that for a second. Two minutes is considered a serious time commitment for the ravenous entertainment consumers that make up Gen Y and Gen Z. Is it any wonder that in their eyes a 30-second pre-roll ad stretches on for an eternity? This is the Twitter generation, after all.

Just to dimensionalize what we are up against, ad blocking has grown by 48% in 2015, and Adobe cited 198 million monthly users deploying ad-blocking software. This is a trend that is here to stay, and ad-blocking developers will continue to innovate to shut out the noise of advertising.

It’s not just the time commitment that consumers find upsetting; it’s the total disruption of their online experience by irrelevant ads. Rather than kick and scream or whine about these generations taking content for granted, I think we need to embrace the pressure they are putting on us as an industry to deliver better work. We need to rise to the occasion and deliver content that is relevant and entertaining, which is the goal of any good marketing technologist after all. It’s time to fully embrace the switch to native advertising.

What I love about native and programmatic advertising is that it demonstrates a brand’s compassion for its consumers. By developing quality content and delivering it to the right consumer at the right time in a way that enhances their experience, we will build a stronger, more human relationship with our consumer base.

Google is really leading the charge in this space. They tested their programmatic ads for native content and mobile video publishers with eBay, and like magic, they saw a 3.6X increase in ad engagement with some campaigns delivering click-through rates up to 5%. As Google continues to release native advertising tools, they project that over 52% of all non-search digital ad-spends will be programmatic transactions.

By coupling these tools with real-time data, we have a powerful opportunity to enhance the lives of our consumers so that, hopefully, the desire to block ads will diminish. The key, I think, will be to keep it human, to keep it integrated with what they are seeking, consuming and enjoying; otherwise, we’ll end up back where we started, with consumers feeling like they are being force-fed disingenuous messages by a bunch of automatons. Do we want to continue to be the “necessary evil,” or would we rather be the thing they click the share button on? Not that difficult a choice when you put it that way.