The rise of digital display advertising has led to many print budgets being slashed, but now it’s under pressure from another digital threat – ad blocking. “Gatvol” of a deluge of banner ads on basically every website, consumers have turned to installing ad blocking extensions to browse ad-free. And the browsers don’t mind complying, with Google rolling out its own ad blocker on Chrome, and Opera doing the same.
Locally, only 13% of South Africans use ad blockers, roughly half the number of those doing so internationally. With the Facebook data-sharing fiasco doing much to create a distinct lack of trust in those pulling the marketing strings, this is only set to rise. In fact, Juniper Research points out that publishers could lose as much as US$27bn in revenue by 2020 due to ad blockers – close to 10% of total digital advertising market spend.
Marketers are waking up to the fact that throwing a whole bunch of money into digital display advertising just does not work. With the digital free lunch all but over thanks to the programmatic model unravelling, where then does this leave brands, and what online avenues are left to explore?
This type of advertising is subtler and takes on the look and tone of the environment in which they appear, with the result that ad blockers don’t target it. That said, native advertising, as seen in many Outbrain links, often leads to less than reputable content, and if publishers continue to allow these types of links to pollute their own content, native advertising will be found wanting. Instead, publishers should take a leaf out of the Financial Times’ (FT) book and set up an in-house agency to produce better paid-for content. The FT established a team that creates and manages paid-for advertorials alongside advertisers, producing content that is far more engaging and actually gets results.
As one of the earliest forms of digital marketing, e-mail is certainly not the sexiest. But it is making a serious comeback as advancements in campaign automation make the process far easier. From campaign management and personalisation, through to link tracking and call centre link-ups, the power of e-mail seems to be stronger than ever. With advances in AI, platforms such as IBM’s Watson Campaign Automation are making lead generation and management a much more manageable task.
The big take-out
Though digital display advertising is on its way out there are other ways to create authentic engagement and dialogue between the brand and its audience.
As much as I dislike influencer marketing, it has a big role to play in building brand awareness. But, using big-name celebs or Instagrammers to quickly promote a product lacks authenticity, since your product will only be the next in a long line of paid-for posts. What brands should seek out is a relationship, and that is why micro influencers are a better bet. Micro influencers might not have the pull of a celeb, but they still carry clout with an engaged and niche following. It is worthwhile investing the time and effort required to cultivate a long-term relationship with them, one that will be mutually beneficial.
The core element of any marketing campaign, whether paid-for or organic, should be a well-crafted piece of content offering an inherent value. That is why marketers need to take another look at using earned tactics, such as public relations, search engine optimisation or simply offering engaging content, to tap into their audience. Content marketing though, does need to provide an authentic message that caters to the reader’s needs; it is all about storytelling and is a far cry from simply going head-first for the hard-sell. The reader needs to feel like the article or video is valuable enough to share and talk about with their peers, and this provides it with a much-needed “stickiness”.
With ad blocking only set to increase, the days of investing in a campaign of programmatic advertising are over. Marketers need to work a lot harder and go back to basics, remembering that the brand needs to convey a message, and advertising is but one way to do so. If this means figuring out what creates authentic engagement and dialogue between the brand and its audience, the loss of display advertising might actually be a good thing.
• Charlie Stewart is CEO of digital marketing agency Rogerwilco