The ad breaks during IPL matches usually force you to switch between channels but this is not possible when you search for a TED Talk on YouTube. Instead of being directed to the video, you are usually prompted to watch a commercial about something irrelevant. Either way, you are being held hostage by an annoying ad and you can’t do anything about it. With a wealth of marketing intelligence and user data available to brands today, it’s hard to understand why people are still being subjected to intrusive ads online. Rather than frustrate the consumer, brands have an opportunity to engage users with personalised and targeted messages.
As of March 2016, 122 million users in India (second only to China globally) are actively using mobile browsers with built-in ad blocking, which is 55% of Indian smartphone users, according to a PageFair study. Mobile computing and technology are not just transforming how end-users consume content, they are also opening up opportunities for marketers to adopt innovative communication methods. A FICCI-KPMG report pegs India’s digital advertising spend at $4 billion by 2020 — 26% of the total Indian ad market. Here are some of the things marketers can consider to optimise spends:
Say goodbye to pop-up ads. People are irritated with unrelated information, lousy copy and delay in web page load times that pop-ups cause — especially on mobile. Although pop-up ads can collect email addresses or drive traffic, it’s debatable whether this is effective today. Pop-ups are likely to do more harm than good because ads use mobile data and in emerging markets like India, where the data plans are expensive, ads can be a problem.
Modern consumers are empowered and demand a meaningful experience with the brand. As the ad blocking conversation rages on, pop-ups will either disappear altogether, or be visible to only those consumers that don’t mind them, with content that’s carefully tailored to the right person at the right time.
‘Spray and pray’ messages will retire. Snapdeal recently launched a new version of its advertising platform which offers sellers the ability to target customers based on their browsing behaviour, geo-location and purchase history. Sellers will also be able to target customer groups with curated ad campaigns and get real-time analytics on their campaigns.
Bombarding consumers with generic ads isn’t excusable in the age of big data. As evidenced by pop-ups, pre-roll videos and broad banner ads, companies continue to mass market through intrusive digital advertising. Blanket marketing messages is an outdated strategy that’s ineffective and unnecessary. With ad blocking still a hot topic, ‘spray and pray’ ads that turn people off are anticipated to go away and be replaced with more relevant ads.
The pressure is on for ad tech. More than 120 mergers and acquisitions took place globally in 2015. Only the most innovative, leading-edge, value-based ad tech companies will succeed like Asus, which will provide an ad blocking browser on 30 million new handsets by 2016. The realities of ad blocking are challenging but are encouraging the industry to move ahead. While this may mean consolidation in the future, those companies that are willing to disrupt the status quo of digital advertising by delivering consumer-centric experiences will survive and thrive in a world where consumers hold all the power.
Publishers are making bold moves. In India, which is still being called a rising digital nation and with nascent internet penetration, the problem is yet to hit publishers. In the West though, ad blocking is shaking things up for publishers. As a reaction to ad blocking, major sites are experimenting with ideas to avoid them. Forbes and Wired have restricted access to content if users have an ad blocker. Many publishers are also investing in native advertising formats to improve the consumer experience and preventing white-listed ads from running on their sites in order to meet
specific consumer-friendly requirements. The ad blocking discussion is fuelling innovation across the entire digital advertising landscape and publishers in particular, are adopting approaches to meet the needs of consumers while also ensuring that they stay profitable.
Although ad blocking is yet to rattle the Indian advertising industry, it is likely to push the online ad space ahead — to improve online ad quality and content to meet current consumer expectations. While brands here are not ignorant of the phenomenon, there is a long way to go before they can claim to not just tackle the issue but also address it effectively.
The author is Ajeet Kandachar, MD, Criteo India