‘Ad-blocking can make us better marketers’

It is easy to view ad-blocking as a threat when it comes to reaching out to consumers and telling them what your brand has to offer.

However, disallowing access to a site’s free content unless ad-blockers are switched off – as some publishers are doing – may not be the wisest thing to do, according to Roshni Mahtani, CEO and founder of Tickled Media. Countering ad-blockers this way is short-sighted; instead, more focus should be placed on creating relevant content that viewers will be interested in.

Mahtani, along with Kevin Hagino, senior regional brand manager of LEGO Group, and Phil Townend, managing director of Unruly, were part of a panel discussion at Marketing magazine’s Content 360 moderated by editor Rayana Pandey.

In an August 2015 study by Adobe and PageFair, ad-blocking was estimated to cost publishers nearly US$22 billion during 2015, and at that point, there were about 198 million active ad-block users around the world. The number since has only grown. Moreover, with some telcos in the UK and other markets now mulling over blocking ads on their network, brands are beginning to become wary, and digital media publishers such as Google and Facebook are gearing up for a tussle.

Why do people install ad-blockers? Ads can be intrusive – especially those that interrupt what the user is doing. Moreover, sub par content makes it easy for people to ignore ads. In fact, many speakers at the conference highlighted in jest that, statistically, users are more likely to successfully climb Mount Everest than click a banner ad.

The basic premise for ad-blockers to flourish? Ads are intrusive, disruptive to the user experience online and are irrelevant.

Content evolution versus media evolution

According to Townend, the emergence of programmatic advertising shows how fast the media landscape is evolving. While that in itself may not be a bad thing, if content does not evolve at the same pace, it will be a garbage in, garbage out story, regardless of the medium.

Brands should be fixated more on fixing the content rather than figuring out the cheapest medium to disseminate content.

“If media is evolving at a million miles per hour and content is only evolving at ten, then we have a problem because the content quality is not improving at the same speed as the improvement of the automation,” Townend said.

Supporting his observation, Hagino said: “I think we are all guilty of it, because the media is so powerful, that I think it makes us focus too much on the hows versus the whats.”

According to Hagino, although consumers are busy and stressed out nowadays, they still wish to be part of the branding process – for brands they love. When it comes to finding the right messaging, he feels there is a need for brands to go back to the fundamentals and challenge themselves to getting the messaging right.

“They [consumers] have a stronger voice,” he said, adding they like to be challenged by the content put out by brands.

Hagino shared the story behind LEGO’s SG50 campaign where it invited kids to design a Singapore of their choice. “Rebuild” started with LEGO enthusiasts in Singapore envisaging what the metropolis might look like in the next 50 years. Ideas ran from futuristic skyscrapers, dominating highways to towering offices. The brand then asked the builders of tomorrow, the children, to “rebuild” their ideal Singapore.

The campaign launched with LEGO Singapore holding the Rebuild Your Memories Competition followed by the launch of the four LEGO SG50 limited edition Singapore icons mini builds. The LEGO SG50 event saw the public participating in a live construction of an 8.5 foot dragon playground made out of LEGO bricks.

Talking about how successful the campaign was for LEGO, Hagino said a big reality in the online world today is that only the best content will get noticed. He added:

Ad-blockers will make us better marketers. It is the survival of the fittest for content. If ad-blocking becomes more mass, we will have to find better ways of creating and distributing content.

When ads aren’t always hated

According to Mahtani, successful marketing is all about targeting the right type of consumer with the right type of message. In a survey Tickled Media ran, it found only 18% of Singaporean mothers saying they find advertising relevant. The others felt the messaging was wrong in most ads. However, the number varies from market to market. For example, in the Philippines, 60% of mothers loved advertising as it allowed them to have more awareness of what’s out there.

Mahtani emphasised on the importance of understanding demographics across markets and customising content for them. Publishers and brands, therefore, need to constantly produce content accordingly. While there is no prescriptive number of content that should be published, Mahtani said at Tickled Media, the content is produced keeping “search” at the heart of content creation.

Read also: Content marketing is the answer to ad blocking

Being honest and upfront helps

The advent of the internet took a surprising turn, speakers said. Rather than finding a more suitable tactic to advertise, brands copy pasted the TV strategy onto the internet, thereby making the experience disruptive and intrusive.

“It is insane today because we always talk about the importance of putting the user in control and at the centre of the experience,” Townend said, adding that  a way for brands to work around ad-blockers is to create content that users want to view and share.

Some publishers have taken the honest and upfront approach by stating how watching this ad helps them keep their content free. Townend said that was a good strategy because it is polite.

“The first thing we do when we look at a YouTube skippable ad is to see how much time of ours will it take. If its too much, the users will skip it right away, as they feel like they don’t have 90 seconds of precious time to give away.

“However, ask someone for 6 seconds of their time like on a Vine looped ad, and they’ll gladly stay with the brand for even longer”, Townend said, citing the contradiction of six-second videos or Vines, which many brands in the West are using to reach out to their consumers.

The average dwell time on a branded Vine is 20.2 seconds, which is over 3 loops.  So ask someone for 90 seconds they give you 5, ask someone for 6 seconds and they give you 20! Ask for less get more!

Creating content versus curated content

There is no such thing as too much content, provided the brand is clear on if the content is pull content or push content. According to Mahtani, “pull” content hardly runs out of steam because there is a demand for it. For instance, “potty training” alone can comprise a hundred different combinations if a brand is targeting mums.

Push content, however, has limitations because it is not something that the audience is needing more information on. On top of these two there is resource content, which includes long form, infographics and may take a few days to complete while lifestyle requires some thought and usually takes a few hours.

“Pull content is unlimited whereas push content isn’t; we can only push so much,” Mahtani said.

Create connections that count

At the cusp of a great message is how you are able to connect with your audience and where, which RadiumOne’s Charlie Baillie, shared more about during his presentation on “Building a connected content strategy”.

“Ensure you know where the conversations are happening, especially with the likes of instant messaging platforms, which is where all the data is, in Asia Pacific. By not having visibility on that you are potentially missing out on opportunities,” he said.

Here are his pointers on how you can create connections that count:

  • Wrap and track your own content – all of it
  • Ensure you have visibility into “Dark Social”, that is, web traffic that’s not attributed to a known source and is hard to track. It could be that you are missing 70% of the leads available to you – this can give you precious insights that might have been missed previously.
  • Work with providers who can gather and activate the data in real time, not weeks and months – that way you can keep track of brand conversions and respond quickly whenever needed.
  • Operate and execute across all channels – so you can keep up with consumers who also use multiple platforms.

Key benefits of connections that count

  • Strengthens real-time data collection capabilities.
  • Grows owned media audiences organically.
  • Informs and improves paid media investment.
  • Insights guide content creation and distribution.
  • Amplifies social and PR strategies.

Timi Siytangco, director of brands and agencies for SEA at Outbrain, also talked about the importance of thinking about the brand and seeing how it intersects with consumer interest.

She mentioned that consumers have three moments of attention, and connecting with them during those moments is essential in bringing your brand message across. These moments are the intent moment, the influence moment and the interest moment. She also advocated that content should be in-feed and not interruptive.

Talking about certain content myths, she said despite the short attention span of audiences, longer videos can still be effective in connecting with an audience because it gives more room for the development in storytelling.

“The next time someone tells you not to make a long video, get a second opinion,” she said.

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