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Just Don’t Be Annoying

March 09, 2018

Recently, Google Chrome enabled a built-in ad blocker to filter out some of the more “annoying” ad formats on the web. On both mobile and desktop, Google will be cracking down on intrusive ads such as pop-ups, autoplay videos with sound, and any other ad your display vendor probably told you would be extremely impactful and eye-catching. I mean sure, most of the clicks were by accident or done as an attempt to get rid of the ad, but a high CTR is a high CTR, right?

As usual, my POV is “don’t panic.” This is a move that goes right along with every other major piece of marketing news we’ve seen over the past few years. The bottom line is, we have enough options in terms of devices and content channels (and such a large information overload), the number of people that will be willing to sit through an ad they’re not interested in is rapidly decreasing…because they don’t have to.

The owners of 60% of all digital ad spend in the US, Facebook and Google, are taking the hint and adjusting their platforms to reflect that they value consumer experience over advertising dollars. It’s the same reason Facebook made their major algorithm shakeup at the beginning of 2018 favoring meaningful, personal interactions over brand and media publisher content. It’s the same reason 6-second videos are the most popular format on YouTube. You can’t use an over the top “high-impact” ad unit to force brand awareness upon people anymore. ‘

One of the most interesting learnings I’ve come across at SRW is how much better a piece of content or ad performs when it looks like it “belongs”. The same perfectly arranged and color-corrected photo that would do wonders in a print ad will most likely underperform as a post on Instagram or Facebook. Recently, we’ve started experimenting with Instagram Story ads. In January, we repurposed a Facebook video to run on the IG story; in February, we created a video specifically tailored for IG stories (more music, close-up shots, more focused on giving the viewer a “quick tip” vs. trying to sell anything). Low and behold, we saw a significant increase in reach and relevance score.

I believe we’ll continue to see strong performance if we avoid the idea of disrupting user experience, and look at it more like borrowing their attention temporarily without being intrusive. Don’t be that annoying guy shouting “Look at me!!!” Don’t attempt to cold-call the entire internet. Offer them the opportunity to interact with you with a tangible incentive. For one of our clients, we recently added native ads into the mix to drive users to useful resources instead of a sales-focused page. These ads are driving double the CTR and average time on page, for half the cost per click of our standard display banners.

This is going to sound weird coming from a media guy, but we all know where our ads should be running. I’ve always liked Gary Vaynerchuk’s point that he constantly drills home: We know where everyone’s attention is because we know how much time we spend on our phones, especially social media. We don’t need to find the secret app or ad unit that no other marketer knows about; we need to make our content unique and enticing enough to stand out on the current playing field. Before you push another ad out, make sure you can genuinely answer why anybody would want to look at it. If you can’t answer that question, you’re being annoying…stop.

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