Seamus Phan signature

There is an ongoing debate about adblocking, and how that could destabilize advertising online. However, is the debate useful or valid?

In the TV paradigm, your only power as a consumer, is to switch channels or switch off the TV when the TV commercials were infuriating you somehow. Likewise, if you flip through a magazine or a newspaper, your only power as a consumer is to flip to the next page if you just did not want to look at an advertisement. Some advertisements might entice you, but many may not.

The Post-TV era

In the online space, there are fundamentally two kinds of advertising – textual, or visual. Textual advertising are embedded text ads that flow with other search results when you use a search engine such as Google or BING. They are not quite intrusive, and are madd known to us users so we know if they are sponsored (i.e. advertising), or real organic search results. And because they are presented with the same typography generally, they are not jarring visually.

However, visual online ads are a pandora’s box. Some visual ads online are embedded within an article, presumably shown to you because your past browsing preferences supposedly reflect a potential interest in such visual ads. Most of the time, they are not terribly accurate imho. Plus, because they are visual, and come in diverse designs and typography, they do not flow neatly along with the rest of the article you intend to read. Sometimes, they can be downright intrusive, whether in the form of a popup, popunder, slide-in, and so on. What’s worse, there are now video ads which can impede your browsing experience, and hog your bandwidth.

Flooded by ads

If you have seen some websites, including some mainstream media sites, the entire home page and subsequent content pages, may be inundated with multiple visual ads (including videos). If you were to run a pagespeed test on these pages, you will know what bandwidth hogs they are and how they can irritate many users.

That may well be the reason why adblocking came into play. Adblocking tools (plugins or browsers) allow consumers to block out all forms of visual ads (video or images), and just simply browse articles or textual content without distractions. If you are using secure DNS services, some of these services can also help block out fishy ads altogether, saving you bandwidth potentially. And since mobile devices are fast becoming our primary data devices, there are also browsing and other blocking apps that can work off mobiles.

So, what is the problem really? Is there even a problem worthy of debate?

Useful or useless?

It is down to “usefulness”.

We need advertising. Advertising is meant to be a push for consumers to begin to consider a brand and its products, or to be reminded of the brand. The best advertising are often subtle, emotive, informative, succinct, entertaining, and sometimes thought provoking. The iconic Apple ads from the 1980s to the 1990s immediately spring to mind. Nobody would mind those advertising, whether in print or in video.

So, if we are to continue to produce advertisements, the parameters to which we hope to engage our consumers are exactly these:

  1. Subtle
  2. Emotive
  3. Informative
  4. Entertaining
  5. Succinct
  6. Thought provoking

For example, if you are producing an online video ad, do you fulfill these criteria (or as many as you can)? One of the major failings for video ads is the lack of attention span in consumers. If you laboriously produce an expensive film-like production of an ad that runs over 10 minutes, you may well lose most of your audiences (not unless you happen to be a blockbuster and award-winning cinematographer to boot) before long.

But you may have better luck if your video ad is succinct and runs under 1 minute, or even 15 seconds. If you cannot articulate your core message quickly, perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board. Video ads are powerful tools, and with the right creative direction, the right techniques, you can engage your audiences.

Likewise, still visual ads demand the same. Is there a way you can design such ads to invite a click-through? It has to do with the accompanying visual, as well as a succinct punchline. It is not easy, but it can be done.

Before one starts barking at people who support adblocking, first determine if you have done all things right first. More often than not, if one is honest with himself, the answer may be obvious.

And if we believe consumers to be paramount to our existence as brands, then it is time we start respecting the value of time that our consumers treasure.