Ad-blocking: Relevance & intrusiveness of ads a problem
RP Singh, Regional Head of Media, VML, takes stock of the challenges posed by increasing use of ad-blockers and what the implications are for advertisers and publishers.
How much are these Ad-blockers costing the advertisers as well as media publishers in terms of revenue?
It is estimated that by 2020, ad blocking will cost publishers a revenue loss of $27 billion to $35 billion. For advertisers, it means that they will have invest more behind their paid media and content production to reach out to their consumers.
How big is this problem of ad-blocking in India?
If we look at various industry reports, on an average, 30 per cent of the users in India are blocking ads, which are expected to become 35 per cent by next year. We have started experiencing it through slow delivery of our ad impressions in last 6-12 months, especially across markets like India and Indonesia. However, the extent of problem is yet to be discovered in totality because there are different reports from different companies following different methodologies to arrive at stats. India users are value conscious users and they worry about their data limits, therefore, they will always want to save data for content rather than ads. Speed and infrastructure are other issues in this part of the world which leads to growth of ad-blocking services.
How would the phenomenon of ad-blocking affect the campaigns of the advertisers?
It simply means 30 per cent less reach in media terms or 30 per cent more time required to reach the desired audience. This is quite a worrying statistics as one-third of the users do not want ads. Reach is only one of the problems. Almost half of these ad-blocking users feel that they block ads because the ads are irrelevant and intrusive, and they consume a lot of screen space. Auto play of audio/ video ads is another concern.
What are the challenges that ad-blocking poses to publishers as well as advertisers?
Due to various motivations of users to block ads, advertisers will have to re-look at their distribution strategies. We have seen brands using same video assets across TV, Desktops and Mobiles, which is a wrong starting point in itself. Very few advertisers are thinking about "sound-less" strategy for their content given some large social networking platforms have moved to "mute" Auto Play video delivery.
The most important thing publishers and advertisers need to understand is that digital and mobile are increasingly personalised mediums and broadcast of ads won't work on these platforms no matter how interesting the ad is. Publishers will need to invest more in technology to understand users behaviour in detail to deliver only the most relevant ads.
What are the ways that publishers and advertisers can utilise to convince not to use ad-blockers?
We need to understand that it is not a "Fight Back" with users who block ads. We should rather look at this as an industry evolution which is long due now. While advertisers will want to place ads on every content piece, publishers have to step in and control that to some extent. They should clearly let users close ads if they want to, which currently is not happening. Today, we do not talk about "Pop-ups" which were in huge demand 12 years back, but we all know how we have evolved from there.
What do digital marketers need to do in terms of attention economics?
Some people suggest going to the In-feed to convey messages. In-feed may not be a long term solution because there are tools available to block ads within apps too. Ads are eventually ads and users are increasingly more aware so they will find a way to block ads. Some industry reports emphasise upon the need of having a different form of content delivery all together when it comes to advertising messages. Native can help to some extent but it is not a scalable solution either.
How far can shorter Ad formats help brands to meet changing audience demand?
It may be short-term solution to this huge problem, but definitely not long term. The users have problem with Relevance & Intrusiveness of ads rather than duration of ads. Users won't mind enjoying relevant, interesting, entertaining content delivered to them.
What kind of challenges does the increasing Ad-blocking technology adoption pose?
It throws different challenges to different advertisers. Brands relying heavily on paid media ads may suffer the most as compared to the brands which have more ways of reaching out to their consumers, for example, Content. Brands relying heavily on mobile may lose more as compared to brands with mixed focus on desktop and mobile.
Could you explain how FB has been using technology to beat Ad-blockers?
According to Facebook, the new ad preferences allow people tell Facebook not to serve them ads from particular organisations or brands that may be targeting them. If a user is on a brand's email list, for example, he can prevent the brand from using his email to find him on Facebook. Facebook's preferences present them with the option to stop receiving ads from those brands. Facebook users can use the company's settings to more precisely fine-tune the ads they see. The new system gives the users higher control to check boxes that prevent ads based on interests such as travel or pets.
In a nutshell, Facebook is going by its users' feedback and preferences on what kind of ads they want to see to enhance their experience and not bombard them with annoying and irrelevant ads. It is working on newer formats all the time to avoid user fatigue and annoyance.
How can players like VML help provide some solutions in the Ad-blocking issue?
Any single player cannot do much. We should think as an industry which has to save itself jointly. Some efforts like Native, Micropayments, etc., have shown some positive results, we need to keep thinking and evolving with users.
At VML, we have been constantly learning from users and evolving our thinking to stay relevant to consumers. We have evangelising our client partners about this phenomenon and taking steps to work around this by tweaking our content and delivery strategies.