Facebook followed the rest of the ‘ad tech’ business when it opted to deactivate ad blockers, only to have Adblock Plus quickly create a workaround. Surely there is a better way to solve this problem, says Millward Brown’s Nigel Hollis.
It seems the scene is set for an escalating and never-ending technology war between publishers and ad blockers.
I understand that sites – particularly those that have promised they will always be free – need to generate revenue somehow, and the widespread and accepted model is to monetise the eyeballs visiting the site by selling advertising.
The problem is that in order to satisfy investors’ demands for revenue growth many sites have become so bloated with advertising that it is tough to find the real content.
The rise of ad blocking is largely a self-inflicted wound created by our industry’s collective behaviour, although Facebook is certainly not the worst offender. I can live with the odd ad in my newsfeed and off in the right hand panel where they don’t get in the way.
Of course, it would be nice if I saw some relevant ads once in a while. I mean, why did I just get served an ad from Harley Davidson? Let me see – the dealer believes that as a male with a Bachelor’s degree who is over the age of 30, and living within 50 miles of a dealership I must be a prospect? Wrong. There is no chance I will buy a Hog.
“The problem is that every advertiser makes assumptions about who wants to see what, rather than just asking them”
It would have been a lot simpler if, having identified me as a prospect, the dealership had pinged me a message – suitably disintermediated by Facebook or another third party – asking if I was interested in buying a bike.
Or perhaps Facebook could have created a database in which I could record my specific interests and likelihood of buying certain products and services in the next year. That would ensure that I had no one to blame but myself for the ads that were served to me.
Stupidity of digital advertising
The latter solution was actually proposed by my wife when she had finished sounding off about the stupidity of digital advertising as practiced today. Hitting the nail on the head, she asked why advertising was so reactive.
“I am so done with [ads for] furniture, cars and hotels in Washington DC. I’ve bought the sofa. I’ve bought my car, and I have been to DC. Why can’t they ask me where I am going on holiday next, because I am not going back to DC no matter how many ads they serve me?”
The irony is that we now have platform and technology solutions that enable interaction and targeting on an unprecedented scale. The problem is that every advertiser makes assumptions about who wants to see what rather than just asking them what they’d like to see, not just on one platform but across their digital life.
As long as this continues, companies like Facebook are going to be fighting an endless battle with ad blockers to enable advertisers to keep on making those – frequently inaccurate – assumptions.
Doesn’t this strike you as odd?