Of the many lessons we learned in 2018, one, in particular, is abundantly clear: we can no longer advertise at people. Consumers are increasingly taking back control. For one, they are becoming less tolerant of annoying ads. 71% of Americans say ads are more interruptive than ever. Cue the rise of everything from ad blockers to paid streaming services. This shift means that brands must rethink their approach to reaching consumers. Eyeballs alone are no longer enough. Research and consumer behavior all point to the fact that non-interruption and consumer empowerment will be the advertising story of 2019.
It makes sense, then, that brands are increasingly flocking towards a format that takes this approach into account: opt-in (or value exchange) advertisements. Here, consumers are empowered to choose whether or not they want to enter an ad experience. It’s a simple premise, but with powerful implications. One study found that opt-in ads generated eight times more engagement than traditional interstitial video ads, as well as higher brand recall. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins also found that people have a positive view of value exchange ads, preferring them 3:1 over pre-roll ads. Conversely, autoplay video ads were found to be the number one most disliked ad type in a recent Nielsen Norman study.
Leading brands have already caught on. What was once a relatively niche format first popularized by mobile games has expanded to everything from OTT to music streaming and dating apps. In response to rapidly growing demand, the IAB recently released a comprehensive playbook dedicated solely to this format. Companies as diverse as Google, Pandora, and Gameloft have contributed to the guide, offering a blueprint for successful advertising in the non-interruptive era.
So, what is it about this format in particular that’s made everyone across the digital landscape pay attention? As Alberto Aceves, Senior Director of Programmatic Strategy at OMD, puts it, “Opt-in advertising is an honest transaction that provides value to the advertiser, publisher (developer), and the consumer.” In other words, it’s a rare win-win in a market that for so long has been viewed as a zero-sum game, in which either the brand or the consumer loses out in some way.
We’ve become so accustomed to the interruptive model of advertising that it may feel daunting to try anything else. Fortunately, the IAB playbook delves deep into best practices, buying methods, pricing, ROI, and more, clarifying what may be an unfamiliar ad format to many. For example, one section highlights common use cases of opt-in advertising and creative delivery examples — what many people don’t realize is that they are, in fact, already familiar with the format.
Value exchange ads can come in the form of unlocking rewards in a game, reading an article for free, or listening to X minutes of ad-free music. Its applications are endless and can be adapted to virtually any environment, be it on a publisher site or in a mobile game. The playbook also dives into research about audience receptivity to the format. One study cited, for example, found that consumers chose the option to skip as the number one factor that made them feel favorable and receptive towards an ad. The playbook also notes that among mobile gamers, 79% preferred opt-in rewarded ads over pre-roll ads.
Finally, in perhaps the most important section to marketers, the playbook outlines measurement and ROI. It defines viewability, time spent/in view, and brand safety/transparency as the top 3 metrics to take into account, detailing what goals to look for in each category. In an industry often plagued by a lack of transparency, it’s crucial for marketers to be diligent about how to best purchase and evaluate media.
Digital ad spend certainly isn’t going anywhere — it’s projected to overtake traditional ad spend in 2019. It’s exciting news, and yet merely pouring millions of dollars into the same solutions won’t be enough. Advertisers need IAB to be more thoughtful and deliberate about each ad placement and measuring success. The IAB’s playbook is an important step in the right direction. As the industry continues to step up its innovation, and as consumers increasingly take back control, 2019 will prove to be the year of non-interruptive advertising.