While the debate over ad blocking has long centered on the struggle between publishers and ad blockers about the ability to display ads, less attention has been paid to whether or not these ads should be displayed at all. If marketing is about meeting consumers’ needs, then more than 75 million US consumers have already said, simply by installing a blocker, that they don’t like the ads being pushed at them. That is a lot of people and doesn’t even include the vast majority of consumers that browse the web without blockers, but rarely or never click ads, and perhaps no longer even “see” them in a truly conscious sense.
While ad blockers and “non-clickers” have existed for a long time, it appears that they’re starting to have a major impact on ad efficiency based on a few actions that happened last year. JPMorgan Chase cut its ad volume by nearly 90% early in 2017 and saw the exact same results. P+G, in the second quarter, took more than $100 million out of its digital marketing budget to curb “ineffective” ads and announced in July that growth wasn’t impacted. YouTube dealt with an exodus because advertisers were concerned about placement across its vast and opaque network. On the sell side, demand for DSPs is rapidly decreasing as too many platforms compete over not enough inventory.
At the end of the day, marketers (like brands) want results, and it’s becoming clear that personalization – not scale – is the best way to get there. Whether consumers are blocking ads or corporations aren’t buying them, the end result is fewer ads in the ecosystem. As demand for ads continues to drop on both the consumer and advertising side, a couple ideas that marketers have been talking about for a while move closer to becoming the reality.
Marketing Is About the Bottom Line
More than a century ago, John Wanamaker quipped that half of his advertising budget was wasted, he just didn’t know which half. For many modern CMOs, the percentage that’s wasted is growing smaller. A year ago, a survey found that two out of three European marketers use attribution in some capacity to understand the value of their marketing. Huge platforms like Facebook are giving unprecedented transparency to marketers demanding more granular measurement.
An improved measurement means that a true focus on the bottom line isn’t impossible, and is now leading to fundamental changes in which the traditional big-spenders are drastically slashing budgets with confidence. While marketers have long talked about moving towards a more bottom-line oriented model, that reality has arrived for many.
Marketing Is Integrated
At a time when the omnichannel and multi-channel marketing strategies have never been more popular, and perhaps the biggest players in the space are now integrated cloud platforms, the debate over ad blocking is singularly focused on digital ads. In 2017, this is woefully outdated.
We know that most consumers are not intrinsically opposed to the concept of advertising and that relevant or personalized messages delivered at the “right time” in the “right place” are effective. Indeed lots of research points to customers being willing to pay more for a great experience. It’s time for the debate to shift away from an argument over rules around a single push tactic, and towards a discussion of what it means to deliver relevant, timely and valuable messages to consumers – messages that they will want and thus an experience they will appreciate.
A decline in buying on one channel where many consumers are known to dislike ads is a function of the fact that marketers don’t need to rely on broad display campaigns anymore, and can instead market in a more personalized way across a variety of channels.
As integrated, results-oriented marketing becomes more possible than ever, US ad spending overall continues to grow rapidly. Marketers have no problem spending where they can see results and are ever more in-tune with consumer behavior and preferences. A consumer who ad blocks is not communicating to a marketer that they don’t want to be reached, they are simply expressing a preference that should provide valuable context and inform a more effective strategy. Smart marketers will and have already to some extent, adapt.
The only way that ad blocking will cost the publishing ecosystem $35.4B by 2020 is if publishers and digital advertisers fail to adapt to the reality that the consumer is now in the driver’s seat, and it’s up to marketers to reach them when and where they prefer, not thwart their efforts to browse the web in peace.