Online advertising is facing a strange problem

Please join our webinar on Wednesday December 16th at 1pm: Digital Advertising is broken: How you can help fix it.

There has never been as much money invested in online advertising as there has been in 2015. 2016 will again see double digit growth. The technology we now have at our fingertips has allowed us to target individual users based on the largest pool of data we’ve ever known. We have transparency, control, dynamic tools, automatic optimisation and daily spend caps to ensure that every last £ is spent efficiently. Simply put, the online ad industry is booming, and agencies are complicit in reaping the benefits, whilst choosing to ignore the problems.

Online advertising is fundamentally broken. Rotten at the core. Emperor’s New Clothes. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not difficult to scratch beneath the glossy veneer and see that there are serious problems at the heart. To be clear, what I’m really referring to is ‘display’ – whether that’s Programmatic, Native or Sponsored.

The freedoms and control that this digital space-race has afforded us, have allowed many to participate in a race to the bottom – ruining creativity and true effectiveness in pursuit of cheaper ad inventory, and better eCPCs. This has ever been so, and for years it wasn’t really an industry-wide problem if a minority of advertisers (or their agencies) wanted to kid themselves that their ‘above industry standard’ CTR of 0.15% constituted great performance, or that the 50p CPM for some crap remnant inventory they negotiated with a desperate sales rep on the last day of the month was #winning.

But whilst the buying process has evolved and advertisers seek new metrics such as ‘engagement’ (whatever that is) and ‘contribution’ (to the purchase funnel), some of the elephants in the planning and buying boiler room are still there. And it’s not just affecting a minority of advertisers any more. Ad networks have created ad formats which are so intrusive and horrible, publishers have rebuilt their business models to chase as many clicks and impressions as possible to the detriment of their editorial, and advertisers have continued blindly spending increasing amounts of money because ‘online is where the audience is’. The problem with that, is that they’ve pissed off their target audience so much that now 26% of global internet users use a browser based ad blocker [Source: BuzzCity, October 2015], and ad blocking is forecast to cost the Global economy $41bn next year [Source: PageFair, August 2015]. 

 Online advertising is facing a strange problem

Source: eConsultancy, Internet Statistics Compendium, 2015

Let’s think about that for a second. Brands have spent cumulative $billions trying to showcase how brilliant and desirable their products are, and how they will benefit their audiences' lives. They’ve instructed the brightest and most creative minds on the planet to come up with compelling, glamourous and funny ads, and they’ve done it so badly, so intrusively, so misguidedly, that a quarter of the global internet population have actively sought out a solution to rid them of this troublesome irritation. In other industries – (Healthcare? Accountancy? Law?) if the expensively acquired service had done the opposite of the desired action and wasted the client’s retainer, big firms that participated in the charade would be losing clients and going bust left, right and centre wouldn’t they? So why does the digital advertising media industry thrive?  

It’s not just ad blocking that is a problem. There are a huge number of problematic issues which the industry is collectively choosing not to see because they would destabilise the gravy train. Unviewable ads. Forced clicks. Bot-nets. Accidental clicks. Misleading ‘engagement’ metrics. Pop-ups. Pop-unders. Misleading creative. Click bait.  All of these are parasites of the industry, harvesting clicks and cash, and adding no creative or strategic value.

Have you ever been reading something on your phone and inexplicably found yourself in the App store because of a ‘click’ that you weren’t aware you’d even made?    

Have you ever loaded a page, clicked on the article/content you wanted to read and found that actually, it’s moved because it’s taken 10 seconds for the page to load up all the tags and ads and you’re now being redirected once again to the Game of War landing page? 

Have you ever tried to watch a 20 second funny video that a friend has share with you, only to find that you have to sit through a 30 second pre-roll ad first?

Have you ever tried to view a site which is so heavy and full of ‘content’ that it won’t actually load on your mobile?

Have you ever bounced straight out of a website because they’ve immediately pushed a lightbox ad in front of what you actually wanted to look at, imploring you to sign up to their email newsletter?

Have you ever been followed round the web (sorry, ‘retargeted’) by a picture of the pair of shoes you actually bought last week?

It’s not all bad. I wouldn’t work in the industry if it was. There are some great examples of brands doing things properly and effectively. And there are some very simple strategies that you can employ to ensure that you’re not alienating the very people you want to attract.

If you’re interested in finding out how to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in your digital advertising strategy, then you can find out more in our Webinar: Digital Advertising is broken: How you can help fix it. Please join us on Wednesday December 16th at 1pm to join your industry peers in fighting the tide of terrible online advertising!




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