As Ad Blockers Gain Traction, Targeted Messaging Falls Short - InformationWeek

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As Ad Blockers Gain Traction, Targeted Messaging Falls Short

An Accenture study finds that online ads are unpopular with most consumers, while ad-blocking tools are making it easier than ever to tune out unwanted messaging. How are you supposed to promote your brand?

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Most consumers dislike online ads, and many are aware of tools that can deal with the problem, a finding that global business consultancy Accenture said threatens the digital advertising industry.

In a survey of 28,000 consumers across 28 countries, Accenture has found widespread disenchantment with digital advertising. Accenture is releasing its findings in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters Show, April 16-21 in Las Vegas.

About 84% of respondents said ad interruptions are too frequent. Some 73% said ad interruptions do not address their personal interests. Some 61% said they were aware of ad-blocking options.

About 42% of consumers say they'd pay to eliminate ad interruptions, which bodes well at least for subscription-based online business models.

For advertisers, the glass could be either half-full or half-empty: Half of respondents said they're interested in ads if those ads meet their interests.

(Image: Accenture)

(Image: Accenture)

Identifying those interests becomes a challenge, however, when consumers don't trust advertisers and consequently don't share information about their interests. That's why Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, among others, has made it a habit to encourage people to share content online. Without behavioral data to mine, the ads get even less relevant to the consumer, and ad blocking looks more appealing.

The survey does not contemplate the flipside of the coin: what it means when half of those surveyed express disinterest in ads, targeted or otherwise. 

In a phone interview, Gavin Mann, Accenture's global broadcast industry lead, said that his firm conducts media and technology research every year, but that it didn't set out specifically to examine ad blocking. "The most interesting statistics are around ad blocking because the numbers are high," he said.

The Internet Advertising Bureau has called ad blocking "a potentially existential threat to the industry." It blames "unethical technology companies seeking to divert ad spending into their own pockets," a reference to firms like Eyeo, maker of Adblock Plus, and browser maker Brave Software, both of which see demand among consumers for moderating ad industry excesses.

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The ad industry has been slow to recognize its own role in the growing distaste for ads. Online ad networks remain a source of malware. The ads themselves make Web pages load more slowly while they take up unnecessary bandwidth. Advertisers generally use ad-tracking technology without adequate notice and consent from consumers.

According to Mann, the ad industry's focus on external threats such as ad blocking represents a normal response to the challenge advertisers are facing. "The incumbent players should defend their position while exploring new opportunities."

Despite evident disinterest in advertising from about half the public, he is optimistic. "I hope it comes across very much that the glass is half full," he said, noting that advertising has been part of the media ecosystem for decades. He said he expects advertising will remain a part of the media ecosystem, and that it will become less intrusive to avoid alienating mobile device users.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
4/25/2016 | 9:40:30 PM
Re: The Party's Over?
This is going to sound like an ad, but it's not :)

Have you heard of the startup Unlockd?  They are betting you hate the high price of your cell phone bill more than you hate ads.  They recently partnered with Sprint in the U.S.  Here is how it works: Each time you unlock your phone, an ad pops up and you get a discount off of your bill.  Apple estimates people unlock their phones on average, about 80 times a day.  Each time you get an ad.  Now, how's that for annoying?
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2016 | 7:08:32 AM
Re: The Party's Over?
Interruptions are the real issue. I do not mind a "message from our sponsor" when I first access a page, or ads on the right side or bottom of the page, or a not too tall banner ad at the top. What annoys the heck out of me are ads that are slide shows, videos that start playing on their own, ads that are embedded in the content, ads that push the content to the right (very annoying on smaller screens/lower resolution), and worst of all, sites that require a login or paid subscription to get to the content that is still overloaded with ads (double dipping).

I opened this very page in a browser without ad blocking and sadly most of the no-nos are found here. Ad on the left, autostart video, ads within the content, banner ad with a rather big white frame using up way too much space.

Do I like IW articles? Yes. Do I understand that ads pay the people who create the content? Yes. Do I understand that me blocking the ads has an impact on ad revenue? Yes. So if UBM wants me to turn off the ad blockers then tell your ad agencies to heed the points I mentioned above. It will be a fair compromise. I also do not mind targeted ads to much, but those are to be based exclusively and entirely on information that I explicitly provide and can revoke at any time. For example, I'm interested in 3D printing and how it will have an impact on many industries, but I am not interested to buy any 3D printer. Showing me ads for 3D printers is pointless, I won't buy anyway. That may change in a few years, but the adverstisers and media companies employ dumb mechanics that cannot tell the difference.

Another compromise is focusing on publishing white papers. I get about a 100 emails a day with links to white papers, studies, reports, and other pieces that are both advertisement and also of value to me. I do not mind reading a 2 page PDF from company XYZ that shows that their new product can now help with this set of problems. I get way more out of that kind of adverstisement than a non-descript, space wasting ad that asks "What does it take to be the world leader in EMM?". There is also some picture with zero informational value. On top of that, I have no idea what EMM refers to and I really do not care if some company wants to be the world leader. What I want is what can you do for me today and how much does it cost. Tell me that in three bullet points and give a price, it will not only help me much more, it will also make it way more likely that I buy something.

Until companies, ad agencies, and media outlets heed this advice I reserve the right to block the ad garbage. Fix advertisment and stop whining about ad blockers ruining your business. If there are big changes in your industry like that it is time to adjust. Look at online music services, the record industry did everything to kill Napster and the underlying technology just to have tech companies like Google or Apple embrace the tech and make tons of money of it. Ad agencies and media companies need to wake up and change their approach. Embrace the fact that most people find your autoplay videos and big ads without clear info utterly annoying, otherwise your business will go down the drain and someone else will figure out how to eat your lunch.
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2016 | 1:35:32 AM
Re: The Party's Over?
So it sounds to me that at the heart of the matter is the actual interruption.  I think if advertisers could find a way to be less intrusive, people wouldn't feel as adverse as they do.  I'd argue that it may be better to place the ad at the end of the video so people are able to view content immediately and there will always be a handful who stay on for what may come after.  Even if you don't get the same amount of eyes on it you at least don't start off a bad note and alienate your audience right off the bat.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
4/19/2016 | 4:06:37 PM
Re: How about the information you need when you need it?
>what if it were an opt-in approach

My sense is the tech industry has concluded almost no one opts-in for anything.

Advertisers prefer to charge ad rates as if everyone who hasn't opted out represents a potential customer. Opting in would reveal the essential fraud upon which the ad business is built. And companies seeking investor money have an easier time if they use opt-out math.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/19/2016 | 3:44:29 PM
How about the information you need when you need it?
Advertising, including targeted messaging, attempts to thrust a message into the consciousness of an at-best disinterested or barely interested person. Instead of an intrusive approach, what if it were an opt-in approach, where the viewer first expressed interest in a product or service and an advertising -- make that need-satisfying -- service assembled the highest rated materials available in response? It would be information you actually need when you need it.
User Rank: Ninja
4/19/2016 | 12:52:41 PM
The Party's Over?
How long did anyone think the ad model would last? In addition to malware bringing about its demise, it was only going to be a revenue source for so long.


>> The Internet Advertising Bureau  has called ad blocking "a potentially existential threat to the industry." 
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