People like to browse online but abhor online ads – especially the ones that slow their wireless networks and clog their cell phones with malware. The situation has gotten so dire that more and more people are downloading ad blockers. And that’s a problem for online publishers and advertisers who rely on consumer eyeballs to pay their bills.. If people block the ads, then this fragile ecosystem falls apart.
Companies can ignore this consumer behavior at their peril, but with an Ipsos study finding that 61% of Americans block ads, several marketing and advertising experts are recommending a better way to deal with the issue. It all comes down to improving the mobile, or online, advertising experience for both people and companies.
“The rise of ad blocking is a symptom of consumer dissatisfaction,” says Brendan McCormick, the spokesperson for the newly-formed Coalition for Better Ads, a conglomerate of several big-name companies working together to educate agencies and corporations on best practices for ads that won’t turn off shoppers. “Everyone in the industry has a role to play to improve this experience.”
Ad blocking has risen in connection with specific ad formats that are proving to be extremely annoying to consumers. The Coalition for Better Ads recently released a comprehensive study that found that the least liked ad formats for desktop users were: pop-up ads, auto-play video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown and large sticky ads. Smart phone and tablets users, said they didn’t like formats such as: pop-up ads, prestitial ads, flashing animated ads, auto-play video ads with sound, poststitial ads with countdown and full-screen scrollover ads.
Basically, when people encounter these ads, they move on to a different page, close the site or download an ad blocker. And when that happens, everyone loses.
“Tens of thousands of consumers have made their opinions clear through this robust research. Consumers in North America and Europe have similar views on online ad experiences they find annoying and disruptive,” says Bob Liodice, CEO of Association of National Advertisers. “All online ad industry constituents should take a hard look at the findings. They provide valuable insights for the development of consumer-friendly ad campaigns.”
With members including the ANA, Facebook, Group M, Google, Procter & Gamble, Omnicom, Unilever and Teads, this coalition is banding the industry together to save itself. After all, a turned off consumer is a missed opportunity, so the group wants to ensure that people stay engaged on all platforms.
Ad blocking of old versus ad blocking of now
Consumers who don’t want to view ads are nothing new. In the olden days, before computers were so widely accessible, people might have changed the television station to avoid commercials. They might have turned down the radio to avoid hearing an ad. And in a magazine format, they could simply turn the page.
As advertising and media has grown up and moved online, the formats have grown as well. Ad blockers swiftly followed suit.
“We used to call this ‘ad avoidance,’” says Peter Minnium, the president of Ipsos Connect. “The only thing that has changed is that technology has put the consumer in control and allows us to use a technological tool to block ads. There has always been a certain level of ad avoidance.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, says Minnium. Advertising has also, more recently, reached peak levels and in some formats has lost the balance needed to “delight the consumer.”
“The economic model of the internet drove a type of ad saturation previously unknown in human history,” says Minnium. “And shame on the industry. The industry decided you could charge the same for any number of ads on a page. It completely exploded. We have not found a natural balance between content and ads.”
For instance, a recent Ipsos study found that 82% of people around the world find advertising a “nuisance” and that 83% think online ads “get in the way” of what they’re trying to do. In fact, Ipsos recently published a study that says this: “But the most alarming statistic for advertisers is that more than half of internet users globally (57%) claim to block ads – either by using ad blocking software or manually closing out of ads. Regardless of whether these people actively use ad blockers or are just exiting or actively ignoring ads, it is a concern for the advertising industry.”
Where do we go from here?
Give that 2016 saw a number of instances of malware served up with digital ads, it is in a business’s best interest to do a better job of vetting ad design and code.
Consider what happened to msn.com at this time last year: Some 70 percent of that site’s 1.3 billion users were exposed to ransomware distributed by a malvertising campaign. This happens because of a tiny bit of code that can be embedded in an online ad that, without knowledge of the website, can cause major problems for anyone who looks at that page. People are fighting this type of invasive code, as is Google, which disabled some 900,000 bad ads in 2016.
Nearly everyone has run into these pesky ads, some of which automatically pop up when you click on a website. Many of them demand that you click to download an app or to continue reading. Most, especially the pop up ads that won’t go away, are very difficult to exit..
Ads need more than eyeballs
“Too many in the industry just want eyeballs on ads and to get paid for it,” says Minnium. “Engineers and mathematicians are paid to optimize to a specific goal and that goal is rarely to delight consumers. Instead, if their goal is to maximize the number of ads on the page or to maximize the revenue per user? Well, that’s a choice made by somebody and it is not in the consumer’s best interest.”
The Coalition for Better Ads, working with at least two dozen member groups, published a series of better ad standards that they hope corporations will consider. Essentially, the hope is that by showing what turns the consumer off, the industry will self-regulate and come up with new ads that are a better fit for the digital environment.
The FBI is working on the other end of things to fight back against malware.
Meanwhile, Minnium suggests returning to the basics.
“The eco system should be optimized toward delighting the consumer.”