How are you expected to make a legitimate case against ad-blocking software when you use it yourself? To add to the hypocrisy, I also work in advertising so have to battle the gnawing guilt that I may be instrumental in bringing down the industry that lets me pretend to be an adult female . The truth is that no-one likes crap advertising, even those that work in the industry. What compels us to hate advertising even more is that it hijacks our one true love;the internet. Without advertising, the internet would function like modern banking; users would pay for their every move. All of the online content that we don’t have to pay for is free because brands offer these websites big money to expose us to their ads. I say expose because this is the word used to describe when flashers unexpectedly show people their genitals and banner ads have come to fall into the same category as unrequested willies. Yet these dicks fund the internet and if we continue to install ad-blockers, websites will be forced to introduce subscriptions or may disappear altogether due to a lack of funding.
Advertisers and the websites they support/feed off, have two choices. Firstly, they can create ads and content that people don’t mind watching. Native advertising was derived from this notion and aims to add to the reader’s experience rather than detracting from it, by publishing content that they know the user of this website will appreciate. Neflix was one of the first brands to get this right with their piece for Orange Is The New Black. The article was published in the New York Times and never directly plugged the show, rather it indirectly piqued interest in issues raised in the show by focusing on the failure of female prison systems. The article was styled to suit the reader of the New York Times and the tone of the newspaper itself. Websites like Buzzfeed exclusively publish native advertising on their site so the user experience is seamless, like this piece by Microsoft. The content is tailored to the distinct tone and style of the site, always keeping ‘shareability’ in mind.
It’s quite surprising that every internet user on earth knows how ineffective traditional online advertising is and yet it still litters the internet. This research even claims that you are 475.28 times more likely to survive a plane crash than you are to click on a banner ad which feels a bit outrageous but really brings home the point that we fucking hate banner ads. Everyone knows how ineffective these ads are but no one wants to be the only one not using them, just in case. Advertising is a game of endurance for most brands, though they resent the big budgets, they can’t risk being the only ones without a voice which explains the breadth of thoughtless online advertising. Occasionally, a brand will catch themselves being mundane and do something about it. Rail company Voyages-sncf.com created an ingenious banner campaign they named ‘The Psychopath Test’ with a simple and engaging concept that let it hover above the usual noise. Users were given the opportunity to win free tickets if they were prepared to hold down a button for 24 hours, scroll 500 miles with their finger or click a button 1 million times. The campaign had 6 times the engagement of previous banner ads and 5 people actually managed to win which earned the brand plenty of free media.
Ideally agencies would produce less ads and the ads that did make the cut wouldn’t inspire the public to organise a witch hunt every time they looked at their screen. A Pot Noodle might do unholy things to your insides but their advertising is in good shape. It’s the kind of content you’d go out of your way to watch but also stays true to the brand message.
Expecting to create premium content that people are genuinely interested in, every time, may be idealistic, especially considering that each ad has to sell something and this something doesn’t always lend itself to hilarious content opportunities. So the second approach to beating the ad-blocker is to educate people on the consequences of using this software. Fear-mongering is never well received but I think brands could have a lot of fun with the message in a way that doesn’t preach.
The much lamented captive audience died with the arrival of recordable TV but all was not lost because it forced advertising to rise to the occasion or get skipped. Ad-blockers will do the same for online advertising as Sky did for TV advertising. In a Darwinian turn of events it’s time for ads to sing for their supper or get blocked.