June 06, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

A while back, a survey by HubSpot and Adblock found that 87 percent of online browsers in the U.S., UK, Germany and France agreed that “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones”. Well, now it seems that people have their wish courtesy of Google Chrome and the Coalition for Better Ads.

The fundamental problem with digital advertising today is that too many ad formats are truly disruptive. In a world where the mindset has shifted from receiving to seeking, people resent anything that stops them from getting the content or information that they want. In the same survey, when asked to justify their use of an ad blocker 51 percent of people agreed, “It is my internet experience and I want to control it”. You could summarize all the answers to that question as “It is my device, my time and my experience”.

In AdReaction 2016 Gen X, Y, Z we found people to be most negative toward advertising formats over which they had no control. Auto-play and pop-up ads evoked a much more negative response than click to play. Unfortunately it is not clear from the AdAge article whether autoplay will be filtered out simply stating,

“Google isn't calling its technology an ad blocker, instead classifying it as a "filter" that removes the ads that consumers hate most. These include popups, ads that flash quickly, change colors or force people to wait 10 seconds before accessing content on a publisher's page.”

If nothing else, it would be nice if in text video was one of the formats filtered out. However, whatever the specifics there can be little doubt that this is a step in the right direction, even if I must admit to being a little surprised that any change has been made. Call me a pessimist, but I had expected we would suffer another tragedy of the commons.

Will this move stop the rise in the number of people using ad blockers? For those using Google Chrome it might. Obnoxious ads are just one negative aspect of the digital environment. In the Hubspot and AdBlock Plus survey 87 percent of people agreed they are seeing a lot more online ads than they used to, and, of course, they are right. According to Kantar Media, the number of digital ads nearly tripled between 2010 and 2015. Cheap media, the promise of accurate targeting and convenience metrics have lured many brands into spending more on digital even if the overall return on investment remains dubious.

So, yes, let’s get rid of those of obnoxious ads but let’s also remember that targeting without effective content is still a waste of money. Maybe the next step is systematic pre-testing of all digital creative to ensure it is not annoying, baffling or simply irrelevant. What do you think? Please share your thoughts.




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