Blocking the ad blocker: Why Facebook’s decision highlights the need for high quality advertising

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Blocking the ad blocker: Why Facebook’s decision highlights the need for high quality advertising
Greg Isbister

Facebook’s move to block ad blocking software, marketers find themselves at a crossroads: go for broke with ads regardless or give consumers what they want: targeted, relevant ads? Greg Isbister, CEO and Founder of Blis, explains why things have to change

Following Facebook’s announcement that it has updated its tech to prevent ad blocking software from working on the social media giant’s desktop site, the debate surrounding ad blockers has once again been ignited.

For the social network, ad blockers not only present a risk to its revenues, but as Facebook ad chief Andrew Bosworth told Business Insider, the move is something they “really believe in,” adding that “for us, it’s a very principled stance on how Facebook should be delivered.” According to Facebook, this measure goes beyond safeguarding revenues, and instead is designed to tackle broader industry issues and look at how Facebook users can use ad controls to make its adverts better.

In the past year alone, consumers have used ad blockers to vent their frustration with interruptive and annoying ads, with an estimated 80 percent of mobile users currently using them or desiring to do so in the future. This in turn has placed publishers’ primary source of revenue under threat, casting doubts over the future of the advertising model which has been instrumental in keeping the internet free at the point of use. Some leading publishers, such as the New York Times, have started testing out “various approaches” to combat the rise of the technology, with messages prompting ad block users to either whitelist the NYT’s website, or opt for a digital subscription.

However, as both the NYT and Facebook have recognised, at the heart of these decisions is an over-arching commitment to improving advertising and addressing consumers’ frustrations. As Bosworth noted, “disruptive ads are an industry problem, and the rise of ad blockers is a strong signal that people don’t want to see them,” acknowledging that “ad blockers are a really bad solution.” This sentiment was echoed by NYT President and CEO Mark Thompson, who commented at the IAB Ad Blocking Summit that “to a significant extent, the root cause of digital ad blocking is digital ads and the way many websites deploy them on their sites.” Thompson also observed that to tackle the ad blocking threat, industry wide action will be vital.

The importance of quality content

As this highlights, the industry needs to look at the wider picture, and recognise that ad blockers only exist because of poor quality advertising. With a huge 71 per cent of ad block users stating that they would proactively whitelist sites that meet “acceptable” criteria, it’s clear that high quality, personalised content, served at the right time and in the right location, is the industry’s most valuable weapon in the war against ad blockers.

However, with the rush to automate and “scale” digital advertising, creativity and relevance have been thrown out the window by many marketers. They seem to have forgotten that each purchase decision is as much emotional, as it is logical. Just delivering thousands of ads with no regard to how awful, irrelevant and disruptive they are, is clearly not going to win over consumers.

The goal of the advertising ecosystem must therefore shift to providing content that adds to the user experience, showing users what they wish to see and benefit from. This will curb ad blocker usage and soften consumer opinion toward these advertisements.

How Can This Work?

There is an ideal scenario for both marketers and consumers; and when we look at it, we can begin to see how consumer/publisher unity can be achieved.

The scenario: consumers accept a free service in exchange for agreeing to view advertisements, and then see highly personalised, targeted advertisements delivered to them at an appropriate time. This could be a sponsored post—educating users on a new product, quick advertisements letting them know about local services during their commute, or slower rich media advertisements delivered to their tablet/pc when they were relaxing at home and in an environment more receptive to lengthy ads.

The consumer would find these ads useful and/or entertaining, sharing items that they may not be aware of and purchase points if they are interested in buying. In turn, the advertisements would be interactive and receptive to consumer feedback, sharing only content that the consumer wants to see. This will increase the likelihood of future purchases and ad real value to the consumer’s online experience. A win-win in an ideal world.

Facebook’s goal is ultimately to achieve a similar scenario, via ad preference controls, to give consumers more influence over the type of adverts they’re receiving. While users will see the same amount of ads, they should be more relevant and targeted, benefitting consumers, Facebook and the advertisers themselves. As Bosworth commented, Facebook is aiming to “provide a middle ground,” and they hope to “form more and more of a partnership with consumers, where we’re providing them with ads that improve the experience and that they don’t feel the need to block.”

A sustainable solution to the ad blocking challenge

The industry as a whole can learn a lot from Facebook’s model, however with the social network experiencing pushback from ad blockers such as Adblock Plus, it’s clear that the latter hasn’t yet lost its power. Facebook’s initiative, and those of other publishers, to place more emphasis on what the consumer wants should be supported by an industry-wide push to ensure that the right adverts are served to the right people, at the right time, and in the right location. Through this approach, adverts become interesting, engaging and valuable to consumers, discouraging them from deploying ad blockers in the first place. This in turn drives ROI for marketers and revenues for publishers, and enhances the overall user experience, presenting a sustainable solution in the long term.

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Greg Isbister is Chief Executive Officer at Blis.
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Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa

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Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa

Question 1: How long have you been at RSi and what is your role?
For the past three years, I have been responsible for creating and scaling Ansa, a web-based solution from RSi – Retail Solutions, Inc., that has enabled over 75 of the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies to build, measure and maximize the performance of their shopper marketing campaigns running in support of the nation’s leading retailers. I am responsible for all aspects of business development, partner and agency relationships and the overall revenue growth of Ansa.

Question 2: How does RSi help solve marketer challenges?
Shopper marketers’ biggest challenge is to connect their online campaigns to in-store results. RSi’s Ansa solution provides the intelligence they need, based on daily, store-level POS-data from the largest US retailers in order to plan, target, and measure the impact of their shopper marketing campaigns. Retail Solutions Inc. has partnered with the leading ad networks in Shopper Marketing, such as Blis, to make Ansa’s automated analytics available for the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies. To measure and maximize their digital ad campaigns, all they need to do is ask for Ansa inside their next campaign.

Question 3: What benefits does the partnership with Blis bring to buyers as well as the adtech ecosystem?
With RSi’s Ansa solution, building, dynamically optimizing, and reviewing attribution measures for every digital ad campaign has never been so simple. Here is how it works:
1. STORE-LEVEL TARGETING: automatically get from Ansa your store targeting data as store addresses, lat/longs or by Ansa Digital ZIPs to identify stores with the greatest sales potential prior to launching hyper-local media.
2. IN-FLIGHT OPTIMIZATION: see in real-time how sales are trending in your targeted stores vs. a 52-week historical average, and get access to dynamic optimization lists that can guide budget reallocation.
3. MEASUREMENT & INSIGHTS: get access via the online portal to end of campaign analysis just days after the media campaign is over. Visualizations give you a standardized set of analytics, such as sales lift, incremental dollars and units, confidence level, weekly lift, characteristics of high performing stores, etc. Prove and improve your media to help you fine-tune strategies for your future campaigns.

Question 4: What are use cases for the Blis + RSi partnership? (Please provide a few examples from different verticals).
If you are a shopper marketer, maximizing your budgets, understanding performance of your marketing tactics and generating key learnings from those marketing tactics are tasks that are essential to your business.

Running a digital marketing campaign with Blis, and Ansa’s daily, store-level sales intelligence helps make that extremely for the CPG community and shopper marketers specifically.

For existing products, Blis campaigns using Ansa targeting can reach a targeting efficiency of 2:1 vs. campaigns that do not use Ansa store-level targeting thereby ensuring that every dollar is spent driving sales to your most important retailer locations.

Blis campaigns optimized with Ansa typically identify and heavy up investment around 16% of stores that are trending significantly ahead of the average store during a campaign and identify and decrease investment around 14% of stores that are trending significantly behind the average store, therefore ensuring that your budget is being optimized surrounding stores that are over-performing during a given campaign.

After each Blis campaign, Ansa automatically generates measurement of Featured Item Lift and Halo Item Lift at both the total event and week levels. Results are completed 5 business days after the end of each campaign and allow you to learn quickly and improve continuously, all at an amazingly affordable price.

Question 5: What shopper marketing measurement trends do you predict for 2018?
Optimization in-flight based on store sales trends during campaign. Optimizing on engagement, intent and / or clicks may be ok for some campaigns but more and more frequently shopper marketers are tasked with driving sales at their most important retailers. And understanding how their marketing tactics performed 5-6 weeks after a campaign has finished is just not fast enough anymore in today’s fast paced world and puts media providers at a severe disadvantage. By utilizing automated reporting that allows Ansa partners like Blis to understand and optimize their media in-flight based on daily, store-level POS sales data you now empower your media partner to act on supporting the stores that are driving your product sales which can ultimately provide a powerful boost to a shopper marketing campaign.

Question 6: If there was one piece of content you think every marketer should read, what is it?
(Other than this blog post of course!)

Think with Google and Facebook IQ are two fantastic sources of resources. Articles, trends, case studies, POVs, insights, etc… pretty much everything you need to read to keep you up-to-speed in this very fast-paced environment.

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Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands Throughout the Sales Funnel

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Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands...

Our mobile devices give us more than just a way to call or text friends and family: Today, they are our maps, books, radios, and miniature shopping malls. We turn to them for news, entertainment and answers. And from dawn till dusk, we keep them at our sides like our most faithful companions.

So it’s no wonder mobile devices have become integral to an advertiser’s ability to reach their ideal audiences at every stage of the sales funnel. Here’s how brands can employ effective mobile advertising strategies to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Win Over New Customers

One of the best ways for advertisers to identify new audiences is to see where they shop. But without access to a competitor’s first-party purchase data or information about their website traffic, how can advertisers find this out?

Mobile devices provide the answer. By revealing where consumers go, mobile location data can tell brands which consumers spend their time browsing similar products at a competitor’s store. Let’s say Target wants to reach out to consumers who usually shop at Walmart. They can use location data to identify—then target—those who frequently visit the competitor yet still live near a Target store.

But brands need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about consumers. Real-time location data provides important insights, but they can be strengthened when paired with historical location data.

For example, just because someone visits a high-end boutique like Chanel, it doesn’t mean that person has the budget to shop there—they could just be browsing. How can an upscale fashion brand find out which of those Chanel visitors are actually potential shoppers? Here, historical location data can help. It can reveal, for instance, which of those visitors go to private airports a few times a month or regularly visit Giorgio Armani or Versace stores. Chances are, these consumers will be a better bet for the fashion brand seeking to acquire new customers.

Keep Them Interested

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s look at our phones to turn off our alarms before checking the weather and scrolling through our Twitter feeds. And throughout the day, we continue to stare down into the faces of our mobile devices: checking the news on the train, sending an email between meetings, or watching videos from our living room sofas.

In order to engage consumers on the devices we use day in and day out, advertisers will need to serve ads that make sense for the consumer depending on where they are during the day. To do this, advertisers must first ask the question: What do consumers want to see on their mobile devices and when? Consumers spend a third of their time online watching videos, for instance, but they aren’t going to watch a 30-second video ad while walking down the street.

To boost engagement, brands can use knowledge about a consumer’s historical and real-time whereabouts to reach out at the time and place that will produce the greatest level of engagement. To effectively grab the attention of a consumer that’s out and about, a banner ad may work best. Later that evening, when the consumer is at home using a tablet or laptop, a longer video on a larger screen may work well.

Inspire Loyalty

How can brands make sure they retain the new and existing customers they’ve worked so hard to gain? They must first recognize and show appreciation for their most loyal customers.

Most advertisers identify loyal customers by looking at newsletter subscriptions and online purchase histories, but they may be missing other valuable customers who prefer to shop in stores. By identifying devices that frequently visit a brand’s store location, advertisers can make sure they are recognizing—and thanking—all their biggest fans. When an existing customer comes into a store a certain number of times, for example, advertisers can deliver a thank-you message—perhaps offering the loyal customer a generous coupon to redeem in-store.

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Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores

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Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores

Interested in understanding how to connect mobile experiences to physical stores? Or how mobile can be the extension of a retailer’s store? Maybe you’ve wondered about the new Cost-Per-Visit metric? Look no further. Blis’ location data experts will be answering these questions on a weekly basis over the next few months in our ‘Retail Series’ which aims to equip retail marketers with the right insights and top tips to stay ahead of the game.

Following its decision to buy e-commerce company Jet.com last year, Walmart recently agreed to acquire Bonobos, a retailer with a strong online presence and generous shipping policies. If these moves weren’t sign enough that the physical and digital retail worlds are merging, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the ultimate wake-up call.

Retailers everywhere are realizing that while brick and mortar stores are still critical, they’ll need a strong digital strategy to keep them filled with happy customers. Mobile devices are retailers’ golden ticket to connecting with consumers and reviving in-store shopping.

Understanding Consumers though Mobile

Whether they are going to work or going shopping, consumers carry their phones with them wherever they go. As a result, mobile devices provide retailers with a constant stream of valuable consumer insights. GPS and Wi-Fi data can tell retailers, for instance, whether a consumer is at a desktop at work, connected to Wi-Fi at home, or walking past a retailer’s store.

Beyond real-time location data, retailers can use historical location data to understand a consumer’s habits. For example, some consumers might visit a luxury jewelry brand on Fifth Avenue just to browse, even if they have no intention (or monetary means!) of buying. Thus, for that specific retailer, in-store visits may not indicate ideal customers. Instead, that luxury retailer can look at historical location data to identify their ideal consumers: perhaps individuals who frequently stay at the Four Seasons Hotel or regularly check in to exclusive country clubs.

But retailers shouldn’t rely on mobile data alone. By layering mobile insights with other valuable sources of data, advertisers can gain a holistic picture of their perfect audiences. Data collected from laptops, for instance, can reveal browsing histories and online shopping patterns; however, consumers won’t be opening up their laptops while shopping in stores. The trick is for retailers to match the data across devices to unique mobile device IDs. Only then will they gain a more holistic understanding of consumers and will be able to target or retarget them with products they are likely to go buy.

Driving Foot Traffic Creatively

Once they’ve gotten a clear and thorough understanding of their ideal audiences, how can retailers use mobile devices to drive foot traffic? Proximity targeting—delivering ads to consumers when they come within a certain distance of a store location—is a common approach. Retailers can maximize the power of proximity targeting by crafting unique and imaginative creatives.

For instance, advertisers can deliver ads to shoppers already in the area to tell them about an in-store sale, or offer them a coupon they can only redeem in person. Retailers can also deliver ads that feature a handy map telling consumers how to find their store.

Sometimes, targeting consumers when they are walking by a store may be a little too late. A QSR wanting to boost its 10 am breakfast crowd, for instance, may want to target consumers when they wake up around 7a and begin planning their day. Otherwise, the consumer has most likely already made their breakfast choice.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for retailers looking to connect with consumers and drive in-store sales, a strong mobile strategy is key. As the digital and physical worlds continue to blend, retailers must harness the insights and capabilities of mobile to reach their unique brand objectives.

Tune in next week to read all about how mobile is fast becoming the extension of a retailer’s store.

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