A view from Magnus Wood

The IAB could just carry on being brash and annoying

When 22% of British adults are trying to stop something happening, that's a sign that something is up, says the head of digital strategy...

Twenty-two per cent of British adults are so irritated by the invasiveness of ads that have gone to the effort of installing ad-blocking software to avoid them.

They then enjoy a less cluttered online experience with web pages that load faster, and are no longer full of distracting ads they didn’t want to see, and probably won’t click on anyway.

The IAB believes in an ad-funded internet, as it says in its year-later update to "steps taken to solve digital advertising’s biggest issues". Publishers also believe in an ad-funded internet because – when they are non subscription sites – it is how they make money.

Ironically, in searching for information and inspiration to write this piece I calculated that I waited about a minute so that I could "skip ad" in order to look at the content I wanted. I don’t remember a single one of those ads, nor what brand they were for.

Something is clearly wrong. The IAB may believe in an ad-funded internet but the 22% of British adults technically sophisticated enough to install ad-blocking software clearly don’t. And what of the silent percentage who don’t know how to do it, or aren’t quite angry enough to do something about it? How long will it take for them to take action?

Maybe they already are. Maybe they are going to your website a little less because the experience has become too annoying.

As in life, so it is on the internet – websites are judged by the company they keep. So if the company you keep is brash and in-your-face, then no matter how interesting your content, your brash and in-your-face advertising companions are going to annoy and get in the way.

In my research to write this I looked at a few sites I’d never viewed before because I wanted to ‘enjoy’ an invasive advertising experience. Across all of those sites I estimate that less than 50% of the content I could see in my browser was what I was looking for. The rest was advertising, poor design, and links to other content that was of no interest to me. No wonder people are blocking ads.

All of the IAB initiatives are smart, needed, and they are making good progress.

But there is one belief missing.

One belief that, if worked on with the same vigour, would add value to the online user experience, and reduce the need for ad-blocking software in the first place.

The IAB Believes … that the user experience comes first…

…that if publishers and advertisers offer meaningful experiences that people enjoy engaging with, then they will click and come back for more.

Or they could just carry on being brash and annoying. Yes. That’ll work.

Magnus Wood is head of digital strategy at MullenLowe Profero