The Solution To Ad Blocking: Make Them Curious, Not Furious

Millward Brown’s global AdReaction study provides some valuable clues on how marketers can re-align their marketing approach to stop a potential descent into an ad-blocked world.

The Solution To Ad Blocking: Make Them Curious, Not Furious

A potential doomsday scenario for digital advertising is an open war on ad blocking, with consumers in one trench blocking ads and advertisers in another trench finding ways around the blocks. To retain a good relationship with consumers, we need to avoid such technological trench warfare at all costs. Instead, we should focus on battling ad receptivity with better content.

Millward Brown’s global AdReaction study contains many tips on how marketers can re-align their approach to stop a potential descent into an ad-blocked world, with the key lesson being to understand and tackle consumer receptivity. The AdReaction study was conducted to uncover where, why, when and how people consume videos online, and how advertisers can best engage with this.

Managing Consumer Control

Consumers already have a large degree of control in the digital world, not only over adverts, but across everything they do online – and this isn’t likely to change. For advertisers, this means that taking away a consumer’s feeling of control won’t be met with a positive response; but a positive response is exactly what adverts aim to create in a consumer.

So when a website tries to control the way a consumer views an ad, the perceived loss of control will put the consumer in the wrong mind-set to view ads. In fact, the study showed a strong correlation between consumers’ feeling of control and their ad receptivity (see figure A). Control, however, does not necessarily equal giving consumers the full power over a website’s ads. It can also mean offering consumers a choice about which types of ads they see, and presenting them with brands they are genuinely interested in.

A successful way of empowering consumers has been the skip function on YouTube pre-roll ads. YouTube has stated that they introduced the skip-able video format to improve the quality of advertising. Embracing the skip could be a great move to make content that’s fit for purpose in a world of consumer control, even with the challenges skip-able videos bring with them.

For platforms like YouTube, the key is to focus on the type of content that works in a skip-able format. And the advantages can actually be many. On the one hand brands have the advantage that they don’t pay for skipped ads, so everything in the first five seconds is free. On the other hand, holding people’s attention for longer and actually engaging them will prove much more valuable for a brand in the long run.

Figure A: Millward Brown’s AdReaction 2015, the relationship between ad receptivity and control among consumers in countries across the world.

The Skip Challenge

In fact, creativity can find a fertile ground with a firm set of restrictions, such as the skip. And the few seconds of video before the skip are a natural part of the short-attention-span world consumers inhabit online.

For making video in a skip-able world, creating intrigue and delivering the brand message early on are the key elements, as well as using humour (see figure B). The food brand Maggi has done this brilliantly with several of their YouTube video ads. This____noodle ad has proven resilient to skipping with its simple design and quick shots – and it also delivers the brand message in the first two seconds.

The insurance brand Geico, meanwhile, has done a great job creating funny ads across many platforms. This YouTube ad is a brilliant example of how the skip format can be explicitly played for humorous effect.

Essential for all skip-able video content is that it has to be adapted for the specific platform it’s viewed on. Brands that don’t offer their consumers platform-specialised content, meanwhile, could soon be perceived as lazy. Consumers are used to consuming their content in very specific formats, depending on where and how they are using a device. While marketing content that breaks with expectations will stand out like a sore thumb.

Figure B: Millward Brown’s AdReaction 2015: What makes a consumer less likely to skip an ad?

How Do We Create Better Content?

Moving away from small volume-high cost videos to high volume-low cost videos can help improve a brand’s platform-specific content offering. User generated content on a smartphone, for instance, can be sourced in large quantities without extortionate costs – and is automatically suited to being played on mobile.

The reason it’s so important to deliver platform-specific digital content is that digital screens are just as important as TVs when it comes to consumers. Millward Brown’s report found that exactly half of video viewing is on TVs (32% live and 18% on demand), while the other half is split between computers (18%), tablets (10%) and mobiles (22%). Ignoring the skip and click-to-play challenges in the creative process means that you are ignoring half of your brand’s customers.

Another useful digital tactic is to embrace the atavistic silent film. Facebook feeds that automatically play videos without sound, as well as muted Vines, means that much of the video content consumers engage with is silent by default. If a central part of a brand’s message in a Facebook video ad that’s delivered with sound, large parts of the audience will simply never hear it.

HP’s “muddled masterpiece” ad for its printer ink replacement services is a great example of an ad that works brilliantly on Facebook. By using visual tools to tell the story in a quick and engaging manner, the film presents a short, humorous story to consumers. The audio does improve message delivery, but the ad works even when muted. Creative approaches like HP’s delivers strong content that consumers want to engage with, even in a world of potential ad blocking.

Receptivity vs. Effectiveness

The report also highlights how ad receptivity and ad effectiveness is far from the same thing, especially as this will be one of the main challenges for marketers that wish to align themselves with consumers. The AdReaction report highlights how to use video on different platforms for different purposes (see figure C).

Figure C: Millward Brown’s AdReaction 2015, how video on different channels plays different roles

Driving ad effectiveness in different mediums and nuancing messaging across platforms will have to be continually assessed for marketers to be successful. While the ad blocking war can be avoided by giving consumers control and creating better and more specialised content, the push to convert brand association with purchase intent will always be a challenge that looms large.