A better internet experience requires collective action. The Coalition for Better Ads and Google are proposing progressive solutions but brands and publishers also have a part to play, says Jane Ostler, managing director of media and digital at Kantar Millward Brown
Great ads used to become famous because they were a collective experience, widely seen and talked about. It helped, of course, that media moments were more concentrated around TV, press, outdoor and radio, making it easier for brilliant creative to cut though.
Today’s digital environment sets the bar much higher. The volume of messages is significantly larger, there are many more places for them to appear, and the number of formats is far greater. This results in an experience that is more targeted but also more fragmented.
Some brands have tried to get around this creative challenge by taking over the digital experience with intrusive pop-up ads. This might win share of voice in the short-term but it only encourages people to install adblockers, meaning that the total audience universe actually declines in the medium to long-term.
The Coalition for Better Ads’ recent plans to remove formats such as pop ups, auto-play video with sound, flashing animated ads and full-screen ads in North America and Western Europe from the consumer experience are part of a collective effort to reduce the incentives to adblock. Likewise, Google’s rumoured move to include a level of ad filtering in its Chrome browser would provide another good way of driving a reduction in use of the more annoying formats.
Brands and their agencies can also play their part in this process by ensuring they and their agencies never select formats that consumers are less receptive to. Kantar Millward Brown’s latest AdReaction study identifies the formats and approaches that are least likely to be acceptable.
Gen Z (16-19 year olds) spend the most time online of all age groups, but their attitudes towards online ads are less favourable than other age groups. As these consumers become more and more commercially attractive for every category, such negative attitudes should concern us all.
Globally, Gen Z are more positive towards formats which provide control or offer rewards, but they are negative towards invasive formats like non-skippable pre-rolls and pop-ups, that do not.
AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z, published earlier this year, found that Gen Z are negative towards online display ads on laptop or PC, which scored -5% overall, and online display ads on a mobile, -13%. Other formats fared even worse, with in banner auto-play at -27% and mobile app pop-ups hitting a whopping -42%.
However, ads that gave explicit control such as mobile app reward, social click-to-play, skippable vertical video or skippable pre-roll all had positive scores. (+41%, +20%, +18% and +15% respectively).
The type of ad also affects their receptivity. Gen Z, for example, are also more likely to demand opportunities to interact with campaigns. They like the ability to make decisions, which is another form of control. For example, Gen Z like voting for something to happen (31% are positive) or taking decisions about the story or the characters (27% positive).
These preferences for formats and creative styles vary by market, but understanding them ensures that ads have the best possible opportunity to connect with their current and future consumers.
There’s an unspoken pact that our industry has historically made with consumers, and it applies as much to traditional media such as TV, radio and cinema: your time in exchange for free or subsidised content.
But beware: consumers are unlikely to accept that advertising pays for or subsidises their content consumption if they are irritated by the way brand messages are delivered. Get it wrong in digital, and it encourages adblocking.
Every brand and every agency can make a difference right now – the stakes couldn’t be higher.