Following on the barrage of negative press this past fall about the growing impact of ad blockers on publishers’ businesses, Digiday’s WTF Ad Blocking event was a bright spot that showcased industry energy, best practices, perspective, and sustainable solutions. The event rightly classified ad blockers as the symptom of a broader user experience problem.
From The Huffington Post and Bloomberg, to Forbes and The Washington Post, leading media brands acknowledged the impact that ad blockers are having on their businesses. However, they also expressed optimism about creating a stronger dialogue with their audiences, testing new solutions, and using the impact of ad blockers as a forcing function for the exploration of new approaches. Here is a look at the key themes that emerged consistently throughout the day from presentations and conversations:
Ad Blockers = Opportunity
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association for digital content organizations, kicked off the day and set the tone by positioning consumer use of ad blockers as an opportunity. He presented concerning stats, including that 33% of US consumers are very likely or somewhat likely to try ad blocking software in the next three months from their recent survey 2015 DCN Consumer Ad Block Report. However, he countered that by reinforcing the unique and trusted relationship that publishers have with their audiences and urged them to prioritize preserving that relationship above all else when addressing solutions for ad blockers. Calling the 45 million reported ad blocker users “the business opportunity of a lifetime,” he encouraged publishers to re-invest in creative (more on that next) and to engage with their consumers while thinking through new content models and strategies.
Rethink and Re-Invest in Creative
Dr. Carl Marci, Chief Neuroscientist at Nielsen, presented a fascinating look at how the brain responds to ads and what it means for content creators and marketers, particularly in regards to digital ads. A real-world look at an individual’s brain activity when viewing the same ad on a television and a mobile device underscored the need to not simply re-purpose the same broadcast ads for digital, as the viewer was clearly unable to read the text and many of the effects of the ad did not transition in the mobile version of the ad. Citing the key challenges of the digital age of more distractions and shorter attention spans, Dr. Marci advised to keep digital ads as short as possible and to brand early and often to ensure emotional engagement with ads. Additionally, Chris Briseno, digital creative director at Bloomberg, discussed how the financial publisher is improving the ad experience for their consumers via a reset in their creative strategy. Simplifying ads to focus solely on the benefit to the consumer, less animation and more whitespace were among the changes he revealed -- all towards the goal of providing an optimal experience for their users.
Solutions That are Working
There was a great deal of collaboration among publishers at the event regarding sharing new strategies and tactics for dealing with ad blockers. The need to create an open dialogue with consumers about ad blockers was mentioned by several presenters. David Stern, Director of Product Development at Slate revealed how the publisher tested sending a message to a percentage of their audience who use ad blockers, asking them to contribute to the site in other ways, including signing up for its premium membership. According to Stern, the results have been positive thus far in terms of recouping lost revenue. Brightcove’s own Chris Fuller, VP of Technical Solutions, shared how Brightcove Lift provides a technology solution to keep ad blockers from compromising the pact between content owners and consumers for ad-supported video that has existed for years on TV. By stitching ads into the content via server-side ad insertion (SSAI) and delivering both the content and the ad as one continuous stream, Lift enables publishers to achieve higher ad delivery and revenue across platforms while delivering a quality TV-like viewing experience for the consumer. The release this week of the IAB’s VAST 4.0 spec, which will include support for server-side ad insertion, will provide much needed industry support and alignment around this important technology.
Learn how Lift delivers a TV-like ad experience