Shane Casey, Head of Digital at Boys and Girls discusses how adblocking is just another symptom that the advertising model is broken
It’s a hard time to be in advertising.
That might seem surprising considering we spend more time consuming media than doing anything else. Including sleeping. Over 12 hours a day are spent immersed in TV, radio, print or online in some shape or form.
Surely that should make advertising a piece of cake, right?
But cutting through is harder than it’s ever been.
As an industry, advertising has tried to counter the fragmentation of the mass audience by churning out ads to plug every conceivable gap that we could create. The rise of programmatic and persistent advertising online has thrown a technical solution at a human problem and created a race to the bottom – simultaneously pissing off consumers and reducing revenue for content creators with negligible improvements for the brands.
The mass audience is still out there, but they’re no longer captive. In an on-demand world, anything that doesn’t add to the experience can and will be blocked.
Adblocking is often touted as proof of “the failure of digital advertising”. To me, it’s proof that the digital “consumer” is now empowered by technology. If they could adblock offline, they would. Technology has enabled today’s public to call ‘bullshit’. Display advertising is just the canary in the coalmine.
Even the legendary adman, David Ogilvy, fantasised that on his retirement he would form a “secret society of masked vigilantes” that would go out in the dead of night to destroy billboards for being a blight on the landscape. “Man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard.”
As platforms and services become increasingly customer led and experience focused, this new ‘expectation economy’ has redefined what the consumer is willing to tolerate and what they expect. Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.
As an industry, we pride ourselves on being creative – hell, we’ve even made it a job title – but we’ve built a business model on selling the same old solution. We’re simply filling more gaps in a media plan with more ads people don’t want.
Not very creative.
Simply put, it’s a business model that doesn’t match customer behaviour. There’s only so long that can last before your entire business is disrupted… just ask the music and film industries. Their disconnect with consumer demand resulted in an explosion in piracy but creative thinking is helping to find new solutions. Legal streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, Netflix and Amazon are proof that there’s a different way to reach the consumer. A mutually beneficial way. Piracy was the symptom of a broken model. Adblocking is just another symptom that the advertising model is broken.
We need to learn from other industries’ refusal to embrace change before we go the way of the Blockbusters too.
It’s time for advertising to put some of that creativity to use on our own business. The need for advertising is still alive and well but to connect with a consumer in an on-demand world requires advertising that’s worth opting in to.
The idea is still king. People still love to be surprised or informed or entertained. It’s just that now when a client asks for advertising, the answer doesn’t always look like an “ad”.
What hasn’t changed is the need for human insights, breakthrough ideas and emotional stories. Our connected world is giving brands more dimensions and touch points. New ways to engage the audience without relying on interruption. But there has to be a value exchange. If you’re bringing nothing to the party, GTFO.
We need to apply our creativity to not just the message but understanding how that idea will live in today’s world. That’s a challenge that requires real creativity.
If you say you’re selling creative thinking, make sure that’s not false advertising.
This article first appeared on Little Black Book on 18-11-16.