The first ever banner appeared on HotWired in 1994. It was the only ad on the page & reported that 44% of people who saw it; clicked.
From that moment on display advertising has been in freefall. Brands, Agencies & publishers have battled over price, performance, viewability & ad fraud ever since. This, along with broader long tail competition, agency negotiation, programmatic trading and mobile made it tougher for publishers to monetise their content.
The game was then to generate as many page views as possible leading to click bait and lower quality content. Scores of ads on listicle pages and high yield intrusive, content obscuring ads eating into mobile data plans became the norm.
Then we learned that half the ads bought were not actually seen by anyone. There were many remedies to this problem that looked rather familiar. Scores of ads on listicle pages and high yield intrusive, content obscuring ads eating into mobile data plans proliferated.
Even the IAB was part of the problem; encouraging everyone to run ‘Rising star ads’; inelegant and intrusive monstrosities that harmed the user experience.
With the clamour for cheap, viewable ads we forgot the most important element; the people we were trying to reach. In truth, we forgot they were people long ago and preferred to think of them as users.
We were so caught up in click through rates and proxy results that we forgot advertising is supposed to make people like brands. It is no wonder that people got bored and downloaded Ad Blocking software in their millions.
Some people in our industry see Ad Blocking as a bad thing but there are many who believe Ad Blocking can save digital advertising from itself.
Ad blocking doesn’t drive people to other channels; it just allows them to consume content on sites without the intrusion of advertising. The rise of social, search and video are more to do with societal factors, mobile proliferation, data plans and the access to content.
In the short term publishers lose out as ad blocking effects yield. The smart ones use this time to redesign their sites for an elegant ad experience and then ask people to disable their ad blocker in exchange for content. This quid pro quo will only work if the site (and ad) content is of sufficient quality. This is only good news for premium publishers as the long tail of click bait begins to fade.
The bad practices will be in play as long as there is demand. Strong advertisers need to take a stand and pay for quality, viewable ads that do not annoy people. This will have a knock-on effect for the long tail; click bait brigade and will force many out of business over time.
Search, social, video and email are all important digital channels and play their part alongside quality display and in-feed native placements. If we are to use digital channels to their advantage, we need data to identify people at different stages of their relationship with brands and deliver a relevant and compelling story no matter which channel they are on.