The Perpetual Flaws of Digital Advertising

Ads clutter the internet. I work for an advertising technology company and I’m not afraid to say this to you, potential clients, existing clients, industry colleagues. It’s the truth and it’s important to recognize the big problem in our industry right now. Ads!

One of the biggest threats to the digital advertising industry surrounds misconceptions about advertising and poor campaign execution. The perceived arbitrary nature surrounding ad serving arises because of poorly delivered campaigns, poorly designed creative and the manner in which we exchange remnant inventory. Format too is a huge factor in influencing attitudes toward online advertising. The idea that banner ads are intrusive comes about from a neglect in banner creative, perpetrating invasive campaigns, and filling pages with irrelevant ads. Constrastly, poor performance often comes down to the enablment of completely unseen ad impressions. The same goes for other ad formats that are being traded irresponsibly, either without viewability or fraud standards, or simply served to the point of saturation. It’s these very things that give consumers a valid reason to choose to use ad blockers.

Always remember your customer and prioritize their experience

image via econsultancy.com

beer ad.png         Samsung ad.png

It’s the obstructive, invasive, visually and audibly loud, data sucking ads that have stippled the industry with a ghastly reputation. Rising from the ashes of that reputation can seem a futile undertaking, but premium publishers and ad tech companies are doing what they can to clear the debris, and improve the ecosystem.

Programmatic entered the game and rather quickly became the norm for buying digital inventory. But not without some serious flaws caused by such automatic functions as matching brand to keyword rather than context (as can be seen in the above examples), poor reporting models, lackluster standards for providing transparent ad request information, and many other inefficiencies.

The advertising model, while oftentimes not ideal, is crucial for businesses, and is helpful for audiences. In fact, professionally designed creative and well strategized advertising can be awesome. But when low quality, non IAB compliant formats are traded programmatically and sold to publishers who don’t much care how they appear, or sent to invalid/fraudulent publisher sites - the whole thing falls apart. Industry bodies have taken a back seat for too long. They need to do more to regulate both the quality and viewability of ad formats.

Why not just block the ads?

Ad blocking has been around for years but has only now become an issue of contention due to the nature of how it’s being used. Blocking ads only halts the flow of revenue for media providers and smaller creatives who can’t afford to implement paywalls, it doesn’t solve the problem. It should come as no surprise that audiences are choosing to install ad blockers, though while this ‘apparently’ gives audiences more choice, it gives publishers none. And in terms of economic sustainability, this makes no sense.

Ad blockers play havoc with the democracy of digital content. Instead of destroying the digital media economy, we should demand more of advertisers by only allowing quality ad formats, of an acceptable and compliant nature to be traded in our marketplace. Publishers too, should be required to provide more transparency as to the inventory they are selling. Following the release of iOS 9 which enabled ad blockers to be downloaded and installed on Apple iPhone, a leading ad block application Peace, had a change of heart, disabling its service after just 36 hours and refunding customers. Why? Because ad blockers are unfair on digital media publishers trying to survive.

If the ‘solution’ of ad blocking were applied to the film or music industry, there would be no doubt of content piracy. You cannot simply take someone else’s work without paying for it. Simple. Companies like Israel’s mobile ad blocking startup Shine, believe they’re doing nothing wrong - but they are facilitating the distribution of other people’s content without obliging the recipient to pay. That’s what The Oxford Dictionary would term as stealing. Their definition is of course:

Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

Yes, it’s stealing!

Just because the content is not technically being reproduced (though there is an argument that downloading is a form of reproducing - see Ad blocking panel discussion from ATS London via Exchange Wiredoes not mean it’s not being stolen. It’s still being made available, to a huge number of consumers - free of charge, without the permission of the publisher. Get a grip!

The industry needs to take responsibility

Audiences have spoken out by the million about their objection to the quality of ads, by downloading ad blockers. In the US 41% of 18-29 year olds use an ad blocker (Secret Media). There is plenty of room to further improve existing ad formats, and new formats are patented every day, giving publishers and audiences more choice. It's not up to us, the industry and everyone involved in it to make this happen for our audiences and our clients.

So how exactly do we improve digital advertising so that it can be a viable format of monetizing inventory is growing media companies. Check out 5 ways to improve digital advertising now.