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What on earth is going to happen to display advertising?

By February 5, 2016 No Comments

Brands who choose to invest in display advertising must try new strategies to tackle the issues of banner blindness, wasted budgets, ad-blocking software and dodgy ad placements – but it’s not all about the format.

NO HYPERBOLE HERE: ‘ADBLOCKALYPSE’ OR ‘ADMAGEDDON’?

Sigh. Just when marketers thought they had the perfect tools to REACH people across the entire Interweb, people go and install ad-blocking software so they don’t have to see adverts every time they open a browser. This came back to the fore late last year (when Apple allowed ad-blocking apps in the App Store) – but by then the usage of ad-blocking software had already risen 41% year-on-year, according to Adobe and PageFair. GlobalWebIndex reports that 37% of people have used an ad-blocker… and 42% of those who hadn’t were interested in doing so. Samsung has started supporting ad-blocking software too.

Are publishers and advertisers losing revenue as a result? Well, yes, a bit. But it’s probably not as bad as it seems.

For a start, ad-blocking tools (and there are several) don’t necessarily hide EVERY advert. Good ads can shine through, sort of. In-app advertising (not blocked) is still a strong channel for advertisers on mobile phones (and apps are seven times more popular than browsers on mobile phones, according to ComScore), where you can more easily pinpoint locations, for example. Eventually, perhaps by denying ad-blocker-loving-consumers access to valuable content, advertising technology will win against ad blockers.

Overall, the number of people using ad-blocking software is still pretty low – it’s generally reported to be 1% or 2% of people.

Anyway, the ad-blocking trend gives marketers a much-needed push towards actually offering something of value. The reason people have started blocking ads automatically is because they are generally horrible, and don’t provide any value to consumers.

Volumes of traffic from ads may be going down, but that doesn’t mean the quality of engagement can’t actually increase.

MAKING ADVERTS THAT PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO BLOCK

The reason we are hearing so much about ‘native’ and ‘programmatic’ advertising these days is because they attempt to address consumer concerns about online advertising. Namely, that it interrupts their delightful stroll through the world wide wigwam, while hardly ever being relevant.

Technology abounds that can help advertisers put adverts in front of an audience that might actually care, in a manner that won’t annoy people, or cause trust issues, or be too easily ignored.

As Marketing Land reports, “Taking advantage of the increasing amount of time consumers spend scrolling through social feeds, Facebook and Instagram provide premium native placement opportunities. For a more organic feel on the highly visual platforms, ad formats will continue to evolve as multi-product ads, Dynamic Product Ads and video ads further encourage consumer engagement.”

But with ad formats reinventing themselves roughly once a day, it’s easy to forget that it’s the content, creative and call-to-action that will make the difference between engagement and disgust.

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SO WHAT SHOULD YOU ACTUALLY PUT IN A DISPLAY AD?

The clearest advice on this front is not to be vague. Let people know exactly what they can expect when they click. There are plenty of stories we’ve heard of brands enjoying reasonable click-through rates from adverts that say ‘Cheap deal’ or ‘great value’ or whatever… but the stories of phenomenal conversion rates come from the brands that actually provide product information up-front. If your KPI is conversion to sale (and this is an important caveat – sometimes it won’t be) you should be transparent about price and product features so you know that the consumer is reasonably interested.

As an aside, you want to make sure that any data feeding these display adverts are up-to-date and accurate. No point in featuring prices that aren’t right, or products that are no longer in stock.

BASICALLY, DISPLAY ADVERTISING ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE

Recent stats from eMarketer suggest that brands are still investing in display, with $32.17 billion spent on this approach in 2015. Spending grew faster than that on search ads, and 2016 is set to be the first year where spending on display advertising is higher than on search advertising, and forms the largest portion of digital advertising budgets. “Under the umbrella of display, the largest allotment of spending will go to the “banners and other” category, which refers to native ads and paid social, though video is the category expected to see the largest growth over the next few years.” Just make sure it’s an ad worth seeing.