Creative Focus: Would you like AdBlock with that?

By Candide McDonald | 8 October 2015

This article first appeared in AdNews in print. Click here to subscribe to the AdNews magazine or read the iPad edition here.

There is not a person on the planet who loves ads more than I do. I just happen to love AdBlock too. I love it because I don’t want to know the “secret” reason why a 57-year-old grandmother looks 27. If you can’t grab my interest before the ‘Skip’ button kicks in, you don’t deserve to be on YouTube. And whatever is in my phone is not for anyone else to see, unless I send it to them. I am not alone in Team AdBlock - see what these industry creative think below.

Andy Flemming, creative director M&C Saatchi Sydney:

There’s a scene in The Breakfast Club in which Molly Ringwald mouths the word “stop” to Judd Nelson during an argument that’s careering out of control.

That’s happened to me, only it was mouthed by various account people and I was the one arguing - with researchers. Some of the greatest fights I’ve had in my career have been with research companies. I mean, real stand-up fights. Fights where I’ve used ‘Here’s to the Crazy Ones’, ‘Guinness Surfer’ and [Apple’s] ‘1984’ as proof that great work doesn’t need a smiling consumer holding a product up in the first few seconds. You know, like one apparently has to.

From now on, I’ll just tell them that people hate what we do so fucking much that they’re willing to use a bespoke program that completely eradicates it from their lives.

Because when all’s said and done, the vast majority of what the industry puts out is shit. It’s shit because of many factors.
Researchers. Nervousness. Lack of talent. Researchers. People have had enough. 

And who can blame them? We show the same ad literallythousands of times onYouTube. When major world events happen, we can’t get to the story because of the rotating 3D object covered ads and you can’t find the sodding X to close it.

We’re in the way. We’re not interesting or clever. We’re an over-researched joke with the funny removed. D&AD recently put out a browser extension that replaces all the shit ads with great ones. It’s incredible. I enjoy watching pre-rolls again instead of wanting to violently smash the screen with a stapler. And maybe, just maybe, if we can all trust our guts again and remember that we’re uninvited guests on someone’s browser, these programs will fade away.

Just like us, if we don’t. 

Barrie Barton, strategy and insight director Right Angle Studio:

To start with, I’m not comfortable with the commonly held belief that online advertising is a kind of tax on the system – a necessary evil that people should have to endure.

There’s no point in lamenting blocking software – people quite naturally just want what they like the most, with as little
distraction as possible. Viewed optimistically, adblocking isn’t even a problem, it’s a provocation to think of better ways to engage our audiences and make money.

At Right Angle, we have a portfolio of channels. We have online city guides with advertising banners and great integrated content that we develop for our clients, knowing we can connect our audience with their brands via a popular idea.

Recently, we opened an apartment in Sydney and Melbourne as an extension of our city guides. They are designed with local goods and advertisers’ products in an environment that will never be adblocked.

We also own a cinema and bar in Surry Hills where we work in our brand partners via content and product. So our business model ensures that online is only part of the mix and therefore adblocking software is far less of an issue.

[Right Angle Studio owns The Thousands online city guides and Golden Age Cinema] 

Matt Gilmour, executive creative director Archibald/Williams:

Read this - you’ve won a new iPhone!!!
I’m sorry that I lied to you in that headline just there. You have not won a new iPhone. You have been fooled. And if you don’t have adblocking software, you’re no stranger to being fooled.

I love adblocking and I love how it blocks ads. So when I was asked to write about ad blocking being a problem, I was slightly concerned. Have I been doing the wrong thing by the ad industry all this time? How much larger could my penis have become? How many Russian brides might I have married? I’ll never know.

As I grapple with this problem, I comfort myself with some advice that I received many years ago and I’ve always tried to follow: “Don’t interrupt people with ads. You must be the thing that they’re interested in.”

Now, we all know that’s impossible to do all the time, but if you manage to create work that people genuinely care about, no amount of adblocking wizardry can stop the world from seeing it. We need to compel people to want what we’ve got, because plenty of people outside of our industry like good ads.

This week UK retailer, John Lewis, launched a 90-second film for its home insurance product, and I’m willing to put my non-medically enhanced penis on the chopping block and say that this ad will get past adblocking and make its way into millions of feeds, simply because it’s good.

Obviously, adblocking will increase in popularity, but that’s a good thing because it’ll make us work better. And if the world likes our work, they’ll soon forget about that sweet iPhone they missed out on!

Lee Stephens, CEO Switch Digital:

While adblocking is a factor in the market, it remains a secondary issue behind advertising accountability and quality. Unlike adblocking, advertisers still pay for advertising impressions served within poor quality or fraudulent media. More interesting is understanding who uses ad blockers.

In June 2014, Adobe conducted a study of 150 million US browsers and found that young men (aged under 29) and tech savvy consumers are the highest users of ad blockers. Indeed, up to 50% of advertising on major IT sites are effectively blocked according to Adobe.

Young men are a notoriously difficult target audience to engage, and a reliance on desktop banner advertising alone is a rookie mistake. They are twice as likely to be using their smartphones where adblocking technology has less than 3% penetration.

Also, engaging these audiences without a content or event strategy is an exercise in futility. Banner advertising, or advertising identified by adblockers, should only be a small part of a strategy to target high users of adblocking technology.

On the whole, adblocking has been met with a similar hysteria to that experienced with cookie blockers 10 years ago. Rumours of the imminent demise of online advertising as a result of such technologies is hyperbole and the fodder is digitally-backward advertisers and agencies looking for excuses to run a double page spread in magazines no one reads. 

The smart money is on marketers who know that adblocking audiences are simply saying they demand a better approach from advertisers they want to engage with.

Kristy Russell, executive producer, Tribal Melbourne:

Adblocking is not the end of the world. If people are going to the trouble of blocking ads, then it’s pretty clear they don’t want to receive irrelevant ads, and brands could benefit from not pissing people off.

There’s no point living in a fantasy world of “reach = success” if, in reality, “reach = annoying and invading privacy”. Adblocking is a simple reminder that the advertising world is constantly evolving and we live in a world of empowered audiences.

Brands need to think like consumers and understand how their customers are consuming content. They need to use other avenues to create, build and maintain a relationship with meaningful content that is entertaining, adding value or is relevant to their lives. One avenue to consider is that with more and more people spending their time on native apps over mobile browsers, this exception could prove to be significant for advertisers especially with the introduction to adblocking on iOS 9.

Unobtrusive native ads within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Shazam, and LinkedIn still appear to users who use ad block technology. However, as the ads are blended with the content and experiences they’re consuming, it is far more targeted and effective, which further increases the importance of advertising in native apps.

Ben Keenan, interactive creative director Clemenger BBDO Melbourne:

My grandfather used to design some of the original 728 x 90 banners back in the early 1990s. They’d lay each pixel by hand back then.

I still have some of those ads on the walls in my living room, as I’m sure we all do. They were so evocative in the way they blinked, asked us to “click here” – where was I clicking to? What mysteries awaited me on the other side?

I was suddenly a vagabond on the information superhighway, bounding from one click hole to the next. My solution?

Everyone with a shared passion for banners should divide up the phone numbers of the 198 million who have installed ad-blockers, and talk them around. It might take some time, but Google or someone will have that pesky ageing thing sorted soon enough.

This article first appeared in AdNews in print. Click here to subscribe to the AdNews magazine or read the iPad edition here.

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