Escalated Advertising Warfare

The gray puzzle piece on my screen is a sign of why marketers are their own worst enemy.

Blocked ad within Chrome browserThe Chrome browser allows you to disable any automatically executing media it encounters. I enabled this feature after growing sick (and tired) of auto-playing videos on web pages I visited for text content. It is rather annoying when sitting alone in a quiet office, and focusing intently on the meaning within a paragraph, for a loud and often off-screen video to start playing, shattering the silence and destroying your concentration.

Thanks to marketers who thought auto-playing videos were a smart idea, now all advertisers using playable media are banned from my laptop.

It has been said that 99% of marketers give the other 1% a bad name. These ratios may be a bit off, but it illustrates the point that bad marketing practices cause marketing to fail. This has been the talk of marketing mavens this month as new reports show that a record number of consumers are now blocking web advertising. At a minimum 198,000,000 active web surfers are using ad blocking plug-ins. Others do like I do and disable things using browser configurations. Still others have non-plug-in tools for ad blocking.

This is the result of advertising warfare escalation. In order to grow revenuesWeb sites that are mainly advertising with some content, some web sites have become advertisement pages with content buried within. Consumers reacted. Then the advertising became more intrusive, such as with automatically playing videos. Consumers reacted. Now modals are the rage, masking content until you click the tiny, obscure ‘X’ in the corner of the frame. Consumers are reacting.

As with real warfare this escalation of advertising aggression causes the opposing side to escalate as well. However, in the end consumer will win this war. Along with the growth of blocked ads is the simultaneous resistance to online ads altogether. A robust 82% of Americans ignore online ads. The more infectious marketers make ads, the more antibodies consumers develop to resist the advertising abuse disease.

Ad blocking  even pervades peoples’ most common online activities. Of all the types of sites where people actively block ads, the second most frequent are social media sites. Ponder this: A VP I know at Google admitted to me that the thing they resent most is Facebook. Hence, social media has been gathering more and more of your advertising budget. Yet they are also becoming the sites where people use technology to not see your ads. In effect you are spending more and getting less than you thought.

The tough part is that the problem is likely to get worse rather than better. Lousy marketers will continue to escalate, finding new ways to annoy consumers. Consumers will retaliate with new ways of blocking ads. Your ads will be lost in the melee. To get around this, there are a few tried and true tactics that will help, though not reverse online ad ineffectiveness:

  • Improve ad targeting to get clicks for fewer dollars, then invest the savings into more impressions.
  • Target sites that don’t abuse their content consumers, since those consumers are likely less retaliatory.
  • Go old school and find non-digital means for connecting with consumers.

Most of all, don’t abuse consumers yourself. Adding to their resentment isn’t going to help anyone in the long-run.


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