Mario Yiannacou, ISBA's media and advertising manager
Mario Yiannacou, ISBA's media and advertising manager
A view from Mario Yiannacou

Ad-blocking on linear TV: could it happen and what would we do?

In the first of a two-part series ahead of the IPA's Effectiveness Week, ISBA's media and advertising manager discusses the future of TV.

The future of TV seems to be becoming a little clearer. Convergence has happened between TV and digital, with programmatic (a part of digital that has grown exponentially in the past few years) being used to, plan, buy, measure and optimise advertising on television. It hasn’t, to my knowledge, happened on linear television (not yet anyway).

I think we can all agree that television in some way shape or form is here to stay, for the foreseeable future anyway. Like all media channels it has its strengths and weaknesses dependent on how it is used by the individual advertiser.

Starting with the physical TV itself, its evolution has progressed at a phenomenal rate technically. As for the screen itself, we’ve had HD, HD+ and even Ultra HD. Improvements in sound is another aspect that is being worked on which has been sadly missed due to the space available within the TV itself – although you can now buy a sound bar – clever. The colours that can be viewed, the frame rates and immersive viewing experience continues to amaze (depending on the size of your television!).

Technological marriage

Apologies, I digress. Back to the point, as TV and digital have already come together, harmoniously or not, there are a few questions that may arise in the future. The most obvious would be if TV is now being broadcast via broadband or satellite as oppose to through an aerial. How long will it be until the user will be able to download an app that the blocks the ads on TV regardless of who the broadcaster is? After all it is just a piece of software.

Will the consequences for TV be the same as online media? Advertisers have been struggling to get to grips with the realisation that some of their digital ads aren’t performing as they were first led to believe as the five horseman of digital gain even more traction: unsafe environments, viewability, ad fraud, ad blocking and badly targeted ads, all still plague the online environment. There are obviously various ‘solutions’ that have been put forward, better creative, more precision, more meaningful engagement and the premise that video is the answer.

However, there are also counter arguments:

  • Better creative? Great, but if the user already has the ad-blocker on since he/she was annoyed the first time he/she was interrupted, the new creative will never be seen.

  • Better precision targeting, this will obviously work for some advertisers and not others, the balance here will be not to venture into ‘creepy’ territory.

  • More meaningful engagement? An interesting one and one which may have merit but only on the users’ terms. I really don’t want to have meaningful engagement with a bottle of bleach!

  • As for video, this is gaining incredible traction, even though it has been around for a while. What advertisers may need to be more aware of is how it’s being measured and by who, in light of the recent Facebook admission.

What if the blocking of ads happened on TV, including linear?

If ad-blocking did occur, there may be limited options available. We may see an accelerated move to a subscription model, within this there are a further two models.

The Sky model whereby the user has to subscribe but still receives ads which works well for Sky and its development of addressable TV through Sky Adsmart.

At the other end of the scale we have Netflix which works on a purely subscription model with no advertising at all. The in-between, as an example, is Spotify who have a two-tier model, giving the user the option to receive ads or not.

Power to the user

A further question for the more traditional broadcaster could be what is of more value, data (name, email etc.) which could lead to more specific targeting via other means or a financial contribution or both. We may well see more sponsored programmes, the rise of smarter prop or product placements allowing ads being more interwoven into the programme itself.

Advertisers who work across both digital and television will be aware that this could happen and will already be thinking about how to overcome these issues and not make the same mistakes twice. Now I admit that comparing TV and digital is difficult and they should complement each other but if they are one in the same, the issues are the same. The power shifts to the user and it will be up to the advertiser to come up with new ways of getting their message across.

It may well present opportunities. Advertisers may well come full circle and decide that TV has been amalgamated so much with digital (and all its flaws) that traditional media channels will see a resurgence – vinyl seems to be doing alright!

Mario Yiannacou is the media and advertising manager at ISBA