Bad advertising: It's what led the ad-blockers to block

Digital advertising is guilty as charged, says the chief operating officer of Fetch, the mobile agency.

By now we’ve been deluged with column inches on the subject of the growth of ad-blocking, and this week belonged to City AM. I, like many, am suffering from the indigestion of having read just a few too many articles on the topic.

But as an adman who has lived through Ad Avoidance – also known as making a cup of tea – the fast forward button on a VCR, Tivo/PVRS, and let us not forget the Google home page (designed in response to Yahoo, AOL et al becoming advertising heavy portals) the latest ‘threat’ to our industry isn’t really a threat, only a challenge.

As my ever phlegmatic French creative director dryly puts it "Ad-blocking isn’t a problem, it is but a symptom of bad advertising."

So I got to work on this column by reading from the bottom up, purely for entertainment. By reading the comments directly underneath the City AM ad-blocking articles, the learnings for our industry are all there and brilliantly clear.

To paraphrase a few themes; consumers demand choice. If we choose to ad-block then that’s our preference, and some of us are going to do that.

And we did so in the first place because we’re all up to our "eyeballs" with those heinous full screen interstitials and ad formats which slow down our experience of reading our news and drain our mobile data plans. We actually didn’t mind the static ads.

Bad advertising is what led the ad-blockers to block in the first place. And where we need to start. In advance of panics about the bottom line, the bottom line is really that this issue starts and ends with the consumer.

Even though it’s no new thing, ad blocking heralds the beginning of a much-needed revolution in digital marketing. Digital advertising is guilty as charged.

It’s what led the president of PepsiCo US group Brad Jakeman last week to say that the very phrase ‘advertising’ should go by the way side, going as far as to call pre-rolls "a model of polluting content that is not sustainable."

We’re living in an age of transparency where consumers, people and especially ad-blockers demand respect and a better experience all round.

I salute City AM this week for sharing its information with our industry that 20 per cent of its 1.2 million monthly browsers using Firefox have ad blocking software installed. And for taking steps to understand its audience and communicate to those ad-blocking folks directly on-page just how much their publication depends on advertising.

It’s a step in a new direction. And a clarion call for the publishing and media industry at large to provide content which puts the needs and interests of their audience (and not purely monetisation) first.

However, Martin Ashplant at City AM says he’s not too concerned with mobile ad-blocking because it’s "still a very embryonic world". I believe it’s never too early for advertisers to demand from their agency in mobile, or indeed any other media, great advertising from the very start and deliver ads based on entertainment or relevancy or indeed both.

While it’s fair to say that mobile advertising is the younger cousin here within this great ad-blocking debate, I’ve always championed the kind of advertising (for want of a better word) which starts with apps first.

Mobile is the ideal platform in which to produce the new era of content that’s personal, creative, relevant and valuable.

When we lovingly position an explanative app trailer video for app right at the exact spot of the app store where a traveller is seeking information about booking a room that’s just useful and surprise, surprise also effective.

Greg Grimmer is the chief operating officer at Fetch


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