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Where Digital Advertising is Going Next - User Experience & Spying

Dianna Labrien, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist, @DiLabrien

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It's tough to get consumers to view ads, unless it's the Super Bowl. And consumers are finding pop-ups particularly irritating when they are trying to read/view something. Add to that the fact that they resent their online behavior being tracked and ads popping up on their Facebook walls, simply because they viewed a product or read a company blog post. Just like they are muting or fast forwarding through TV commercials, consumers are using ad blocker apps on their mobile devices. This provides a potential "perfect storm" of disaster for marketers. What's a company to do in the face of all of this?

Trends in Advertising

Before considering where their advertising dollars will go, companies should first look at overall trends:

Revenues from desktop advertising are flat. At the same time mobile advertising is growing exponentially. In 2015, Internet advertising reached $60 billion, and revenue from mobile ads grew more than 66%. Revenue from desktop ads was up only 5%.

Google and Facebook together "own" 76% of all of internet advertising on mobile. There's a reason for this. Despite what many have been predicting, millennials are not abandoning Facebook, and Zuckerberg is basking in the laurels of advertising increasing by 59% between 2014-15. Google's more modest 18% growth is still far and above all other social media platforms.

Consumers don't like online ads. Video company Unruly recently surveyed 3200 mobile users and found that 62% of them are irritated by ads and would consider adblockers.

Ad blocking is a real thing – 400 million mobile users worth, actually. Technology is being developed to get around this and ad publishers will definitely use it. while this is a relatively new activity in the U.S., ad blocking on mobile devices is a growing phenomenon.

Ad publishers had best be brief. Short videos are far more well-received – 30 seconds to a minute is about tops.

Chat-based marketing is hot and will continue to be so. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat are exploding right now.

Advertising will be all about the user experience, and this is so important, it deserves its own section of this post.

User Experience

Marketers fully understand the importance of user experience in their strategies and content. In fact, in a recent survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 73% of surveyed marketing pros admitted user experience must improve if digital advertising is to continue to be a major source of company revenues. Challenges faced by digital advertising crafters and publishers are three-fold:
  • Ad Clutter
  • Creativity
  • Interruptive Nature of Digital Ads
Recommendations based upon the IAB survey have been reported recently at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. While some of these are already understood, it is a good idea to review them:
  1. Know the Audience: If you have intimate understanding of your demographic, you know the type of content that will resonate with it.
  2. Put the right content into the right context. Visual content especially, with strong emphasis on short creative videos, will resonate with the bulk of Internet consumers. Using humor and other emotional appeals is a must.
  3. Continue to focus more on relationship-driven advertising rather than on transactions, on ROI as opposed to just traffic. As Sabri Suby, head of growth at says: "Most agencies have it wrong! They focus on clicks and traffic, but you can't take those to the bank."
  4. Add interactivity whenever possible – "audience participation" is still a huge value in marketing.
  5. Take creative risks with newer technologies – the more unusual and unique the better, while keeping content that resonates with your demographic.
Get Ready for More "Spying" – a Growing Trend

Online digital marketing pros already "spy" on visitors and users. That's how targeted advertising happens. It is moving rapidly to offline marketing strategies, specifically billboard advertising, large and small. Billboards now adorn Times Square, airports, and many other places where consumer gather in groups. They are not just for highways anymore.

Interactive billboards are not brand new. They have existed for quite a while, with viewers able to use touch screens and other technology for a fun experiences. But now, while viewers watch billboards, they need to understand that those billboards may be watching back.

The term is now DOOH – Digital Out Of Home. And it refers to all screens in locations all over the place. Video-based advertisements run continually on these billboards and many of them are watching back through embedded cameras, many of them equipped with facial-recognition software.

So, just what are these cameras conveying back to the advertisers? And how are they using it to drive their marketing campaigns? Here is a typical example:

On an escalator ride through an airport, from terminal to gate, the walls are flooded with digital billboards. When a traveler stands on that escalator and views a billboard ad, his/her face is registered. Marketers can take this data and use it to establish demographic data on consumers who are showing interest in their ads – gender and age group at a minimum. Data can also show which specific ads caught the attention of a viewer and at which locations were those ads viewed, including day of week and time of day. These analytics can drive future offline billboard advertising, so that marketers can make the most of their dollars.

What this newer advertising venue brings to marketing is that it is not intruding upon a user's online experience but is still capturing attention, as long as the advertising content and context is engaging. As well, marketers can use analytics and metrics to determine their audiences and the desired locations and times for their offline advertising.

Many see this technology as "creepy," but it is definitely here to stay and will become more sophisticated in its intelligence gathering, as technologies are able to provide more data.

The Bottom Line

When all is said and done, digital marketing cannot ignore the need to establish relationships with consumers, the need to be wonderfully creative in ad delivery content, and to put advertising within contexts that targeted demographics will find compelling and engaging. This is a continually evolving phenomenon, and marketers are in for a bit of a ride in the near future.

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