What Ads Will Win in 2016?

Look for big changes in advertising during 2016.

Soon after Adobe and PageFair released their study on the number of people who used ad blocking software, the Interactive Advertising Bureau responded with a working group to establish new ad guidelines that put the consumer at the center of the advertising experience. In the future, ads should be 1)Lightweight, so they don’t slow page load times; 2) Encrypted, to protect consumer privacy 3) Ad choice supported, so consumers can decide what they want to see, and 4) Non-invasive, so they don’t take over the page. These L.E.A.N. standards haven’t been detailed yet, but given the power IAB has in the United States,  they will certainly be influential. We’ll be writing more about this after the IAB Leadership Summit next month.

Now the European analogue to IAB has followed suit. The World Federation of Advertisers, which claims the largest international advertisers — Nike, Coca-Cola, Unilever, McDonald’s and Adidas–as members, has joined the call, urging its members to create an online environment that puts consumers first.

WFA Managing Director Stephan Loerke said that marketers must create international standards for digital advertising; allow consumers to establish clear preferences for the advertising they are willing to see; and then regularly monitor their responses.

Mr. Loerke said, “The internet advertising experience is not satisfactory for consumers. As brand owners, we have to take a longer-term view and create an acceptable, sustainable advertising environment – not push things to people in a way that turns them off.”

We’re sure there will be heated discussions about what consumers want to see, and what will make the experience better. We’re hoping for some good research that asks the consumers themselves what they’d like to see, and under what conditions. Of course WFA isn’t starting with that; instead it’s starting by talking to its members — brands, agencies, and publishers. We think that’s a mistake; they ought to start by talking to consumers.

The Adobe/Page Fair study said the biggest reason for blocking ads is consumer privacy concerns. There’s some irony involved here; it seems the ads aren’t the problem, it’s the trackers that consumers don’t like. On the other hand, consumers also say they don’t want to see too many ads, and they don’t want to see irrelevant ads.  These responses quickly lead marketers to question how it’s possible to serve targeted ads, especially fewer of them, to capture sales ROI without data.

Since the use of data probably will not stop, the simplest solution is to run fewer, more lightweight ads and to step up the quality of creative. We’re already seeing some very short video spots that are highly memorable and over before they can annoy a viewer.  Hopefully this re-thinking of advertising formats will continue into 2016 until we get enough good ads to make people turn off their blockers. That will require some ads to “go viral,” as they say, which is difficult to do, but not impossible.