Is digital advertising worth your hard-earned dollars?
It takes an online community to curb disruptive ads
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Department store magnate John Wanamaker is credited with uttering those words in the 19th century. As is the way of things, history seems to be repeating itself.
Advertisers often wonder whether their investment is producing results. For retailers that could be increased sales. Other companies and organizations may simply want to know if their messages are getting out.
Last year, comScore, a U.S. media measurement and analytics company, reported that 30 million Canadians are online, either on computers, smartphones or tablets. But the Canadian Multi-Platform Landscape findings also showed some digital ad trends we need to pay attention to:
- 45 per cent of ad impressions in Canada do not have the opportunity to be seen.
- 58 per cent of consumer goods ads do not have the opportunity to be seen.
- 61 per cent of persons 25 to 54 years old are successfully targeted in ad campaigns.
These stats raise some interesting questions. With the advent of ad blockers, banner blindness, click fraud and bot farms, does digital advertising even work? And how do you know?
“Online ads typically go unseen when a marketer takes a traditional approach to non-traditional digital media,” says Doug Lacombe, president of Communicatto. “The old ‘set it and forget it’ approach to traditional media does not fly in digital.”
Instead, he says, online ads need to be optimized, based on the tracking data only the digital space can produce. You want to keep the winners and ditch the losers, which means you need to know what winning even means.
Here are a few things to consider:
Measure the right things
Lacombe says vanity metrics, like ad impressions, are misleading. “It’s like saying 10,000 cars went by, so 10,000 people must have seen my billboard.” Such estimates don’t take into account people who were distracted, uninterested, or put off by your ad. Impressions is a vague data point that only suggests the potential audience: “We prefer to measure actions and conversions – actual outcomes.”
Provide value to your audience
Lacombe says banner blindness is a product of bad creative, coupled with interrupting the online reader. “Whenever you get in the way of the reader, you better be providing value and not annoying them.”
Understand what your customer wants/needs
Remarketing – ads that follow the customer around – can be highly effective when created with the customer’s intent in mind, he says. “But (they) can be super irritating too. You can easily over-saturate the market and drive people nuts by nagging them.”
For example, Lacombe says he will likely never purchase Grammarly, an online grammar checker, nor Monday.com, an online project management tool, not because of the quality of the tool but because their ads repeat too frequently in his online activities.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada’s (IAB Canada) 2017 Ad Blocking Report found that despite high awareness, only one-in-six (18 per cent) of online Canadians have ad blocking software/apps installed on their desktop devices, up one per cent from the previous survey, based on eight months of passive measurement data in each study.
Reasons cited for ad blocking include advertising clutter, device performance and privacy. Even fewer Canadians (five per cent) have installed ad blocking software/apps on their cell phones, and just seven per cent on tablets.
“. . . Considerably fewer Canadians actually use ad blockers than think they do … and three-quarters have still never used one. Confirmed users correctly identified ad blockers by brand as the apps they use, rather than anti-virus software or pop-up blockers,” the IAB reported.
“Importantly, over three quarters of Canadians still prefer ad-supported free content on the Internet,” the IAB stated. The biggest motivators cited for uninstalling/no longer using ad blockers included site requests to turn off their ad blocker and blocked site content.
IAB recommends publishers continue efforts to detect ad blocking software “and suspend content delivery until the publisher site is either whitelisted or the ad blocker is removed.”
In a recent Internet post, Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, vice-president of Google’s Chrome division, said the company will stop showing all ads on sites that repeatedly display the most disruptive ads after they’ve been flagged.
Roy-Chowdhury says the web is an ecosystem composed of consumers, content producers, hosting providers, advertisers, web designers, and many others, so it’s important to maintain a balance. Disruptive ads have the potential to derail the entire system.
“We’ve already seen more and more people express their discontent with annoying ads by installing ad blockers but blocking all ads can hurt sites or advertisers who aren’t doing anything disruptive,” he said.
By filtering out disruptive ad experiences, we can help keep the entire ecosystem of the web healthy and give people a significantly better user experience than they have today.