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Can Today’s Go-To Ad Formats Combat Ad Blocking?

The ad blocking debate has dominated industry discussion over the last 12 months and continues to rumble on. Attention is now focused once more on Facebook since it began taking the fight to the ad blockers by restricting their ability to block ads on the Facebook desktop site. On its recent Q3 earnings call, Facebook CFO David Wehner attributed the company’s increase in desktop ad revenue growth as “largely due to our efforts on reducing the impact of ad blocking. That’s what led to the acceleration of desktop revenue.”

While the figures are impressive, Facebook, of course, occupies a somewhat unique position within the advertising ecosystem—it is the preeminent global publisher and claims a staggering amount of advertiser dollars every single day.

For pretty much everyone else, it’s far more difficult to take on the ad blockers. Instead, the priority for the wider industry must be to make the case for advertising by reengaging the consumer with more dynamic and creative advertising, and look at just how effective today’s go-to ad formats are in combating ad blocking.

Questions have long been asked about the extent to which advertising can be truly creative within formats such as banner ads, yet the reality is that advertisers are spoilt for choice when it comes to digital ad formats. While many formats do increase engagement and may decrease the clicking of the ad blocker, we mustn’t fall into the trap of assuming that just because the ad is an interesting format, the consumer will be instantly satisfied enough to resist the ad blocker.

An effective digital advertising strategy is realised when creativity, data, and automation are united. The use of high-impact ad formats must include a relevant story—a narrative that is personal and inspiring for the consumer. Advertisers need to become more savvy when utilising their first-party data, and must learn how to collate offline and online data from numerous touch points to create a seamless, relevant, and unobtrusive consumer journey.  

For example, more advertisers are now considering the use of Dynamic Creative Optimisation, delivering their ads at the most appropriate moment using automation with data pooled from a user’s previous on and offline experiences utilised within the format itself.

This could mean that an online user viewing new Nike trainers and/or consuming content around Wimbledon is targeted with a high-impact ad that includes live singles and doubles results data fed straight into the format itself, promoting previously viewed Nike trainers with a call-to-action that goes straight to a purchasing page. It could even include details of stock availability in the nearest physical store, or a data capture form that generates a voucher for online or in-store redemption. Add another layer in the form of customised creative backgrounds—e.g. using locally relevant imagery based on the user’s location—and the ad format is far more likely to tick all the boxes for the user in terms of relevancy, entertainment, and utility.

When we look at smart digital ad formats, another important point to raise is video. All ad formats perform better when video is included across multiple devices, providing the advertiser takes the time to tailor the creative accordingly. If consumers don’t see an ad, they can’t interact with it. We’ve seen advertisers suffer when they’ve tried to transfer existing creative from desktop to mobile without customising the experience for the screen on which the creative is being viewed.

One of the go-to formats for many advertisers in recent years has been the bespoke desktop takeover with video. It’s certainly true that video can perform even more effectively in this context. In creating a high-impact format that cannot escape site visitors’ attention, it’s vital the creative is well-matched to the target audience or it could be a massive turn-off.

Alongside video, the dramatic increase in native formats looks set to continue. They provide value to the consumer and are a little more explicitly salesy than content marketing. When executed correctly, native ads sit within a relevant context, providing a seamless consumer experience. In contrast, when executed poorly, native ads can provoke confusion and/or frustration as they side-track the consumer away from the content they’re genuinely interested in.

With every one of these emerging formats, there is risk and reward, the chance to reengage consumers versus the possibility of losing them to the ad blockers. After a year of transparency and ad blocking discussions, agencies working with advertisers must take responsibility for promoting best practices for dynamic creative optimisation, frequency capping (if the user is not engaged), and appropriate weight adjustment (to not slow down the website), to name a few. Agencies should also be taking responsibility in educating their advertisers on how to best use their data, and how this can decrease ad blockers and increase ROI.

While Facebook will, undoubtedly, continue its war against ad blocking, we must all keep educating the general population about the negative role ad blockers play in jeopardising access to content. Yet, the fact remains, providing relevant and rewarding personalised content and creative to consumers is by far the best ad blocking antidote as we look ahead to 2017.

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