How much advertising can a viewer, listener or reader tolerate before they lose interest in the content? It’s a question that’s constantly being answered as advertising has always been a trade off. Much of the content consumed today is supported in part, or in full, by advertisements. The problem? People tend to hate advertisements. Maybe hate is too strong a word to use, but most people accept advertisements as the trade off to consuming content at a specific price, or more often, for free.
Historically, radio and TV were services provided at no cost to the public and were supported in full, or in part, by advertisements. Programs were cut into pieces and advertisements were slipped in between those pieces to help monetize the content. The upside to content consumers? There was no monetary cost to consume the content. Sure, there were barriers to entry (like purchasing a radio or television) but in general, there has always been free content available for those interested, provided they can tolerate the advertisements.
This concept of ‘free’ content has grown to be more complicated as digital and online advertising has continued to mature. Websites are now able to monetize users in more advanced ways than simply showing an advertisement on a page. Data companies work with content providers (publishers) to track browsing behaviors across the web. This creates an interesting conundrum. In some way, it can help reduce the number of ads being shown, as the content is being monetized behind the scenes. However, it also allows ads to become far more targeted, as advertisers can leverage browsing habits and history to show more targeted adverts to consumers. The ‘creepy factor’ of advertising is something advertisers are constantly struggling with. However, one thing is clear – users are expecting more value from the advertisements they are being shown. By the same token, consumers have more options than ever before on where they turn to for content.
For most, the mobile device is the most personal and most used device. It’s also a device filled with a wide variety of apps used to consume content, that are incredibly easy to switch between. A content experience too filled with advertisements will push a consumer to another app, website, etc. So where is the new balance? The iOS ecosystem alone has created over 1.4 million jobs as of December 2015. These jobs are created and these apps are often supported by advertising. The same value exchange that began with radio, TV and newspapers exists today in the app ecosystem. But the smartphone is the crux of our digital lives and as such – must be treated differently.
If you ask me — we need to start providing true, real and actionable insights and value into the messaging that’s being shown to content consumers. The amount of data that is at the disposal of an advertiser is now tremendous. Let’s begin to leverage it! By bringing in datasets from outside of the standard information seen in a bid request, we as an industry can begin to layer on to provide actionable messaging. Imagine an ad that lets you know the subway is delayed before you leave for your commute, or notifies you that it’s raining and be prepared for traffic. These types of messages provide actionable insights for content consumers.
Advertising works. Entire industries have been built on the success of advertising, but advertising must continue to evolve. As users adopt ad blockers and as content publishers respond by creating pay walls – or mechanisms to block content to consumers unwilling to see ads – a new form of value must emerge.
Advertisers and content publishers alike must strike a balance that keep users engaged with the content, while maximizing advertising potential. If advertisers push users to adblockers, content publishers will be forced to find new ways to monetize their sites and the number of options are fairly limited. For this equilibrium between content consumers and the advertisers/publishers to exist, it must continue to evolve.
Advertisers and publishers must begin a new dialog around value with content consumers. Advertisers need to start providing a new level of value so that consumers are engaged, while publishers create effective content experiences. In other words, advertising must continue to evolve in order to provide new forms and types of information.