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Coping with the digital backlash

News, 13 January 2016

LONDON: The advertising industry need to beware of a "digital backlash" as ad tech drives "fear and mistrust" among marketers and publishers face the increased use of ad blockers by consumers.

These are not new topics, but Warc's Toolkit 2016 noted that concern is growing for two reasons: the growing budgets going into digital marketing, and the growing use of programmatic. (Non-subscribers can download a sample of this Toolkit chapter here.)

As digital budgets increase, clients are asking for greater transparency in terms of how their budget is being used. They want to see the industry address issues around viewability, fraud and brand 'safety'.

No-one would dispute the last two of these but some argue that there is an unwarranted fixation with the first and that rather than focus on 100% viewability – and existing standards do not apply to non-standard formats to where more money is flowing – more KPIs are needed, such as time spent with an ad.

Programmatic buying, meanwhile, has led to an explosion of VC-backed companies in the adtech space, which in turn has created an atmosphere of "fear and mistrust" among clients, according to Karim Attia, Chairman of IAB Europe's Brand Advertising Committee. Some vendors, he argued, are exploiting that sense of confusion to make money.

Ad blocking, meanwhile, has reached an inflection point, becoming big enough to force the industry to take it seriously and tackle the poor digital experience of many consumers and the privacy concerns that many have expressed.

Julie Cupitt, manager at Deloitte Digital, warned that "the potential impact [of ad blockers] is a less diverse and interesting web where few control and publish content, taking the web back in time".

But she did not expect that such a digital dystopia would develop and that publishers would instead respond by getting more creative with how they advertise to consumers.

"This might involve further development of less intrusive formats like advertorials, video pre-roll, native advertising and product placement," she suggested.

Data sourced from Warc