Anticipating Advertisers’ Next Big Freakout

By Adam Weinroth

The last few years have seen freakout moments dominating dialogue and strategies from do-not-track to fake news. Adam Weinroth, CMO of OneSpot shares his outlook on looming challenges and calls for marketers to harness creativity and innovation to deliver relevance and real value to consumers

In recent history, we’ve seen disruptive moments blow up into near-hysteria to the point that they not only dominate headlines, but the way we talk and think about the future of marketing. Not too long ago it was do-not-track, then it was viewability, then it was bot traffic, then it was ad blocking and now it’s fake news. At every turn, these issues have surfaced as industry crises, with the requisite levels of worry, condemnation and hand wringing and with working groups and silver bullet technical solutions coming together to address the challenge.

While industry changes and new technologies have often mitigated these issues, it’s largely been the case that the panic of the moment subsides, and we continue on with incremental improvements. But now that we’ve been to this rodeo enough times, what can we learn and what might we be able to predict from freakouts past? What is that next industry crisis lurking around the corner?

Mobile Engagement Inflate-Gate

Even when I try hard to avoid it, I still make so many fat thumbed taps on ads. Kids, with even less refined motor skills, notoriously click on anything and everything in their ad-supported mobile apps. This is real human viewability and real human taps. 60 percent of clicks on mobile banner ads are accidental according to a recent study from Retale, a mobile location firm. The research showed people most often encounter banner ads when checking the news, using social media channels, playing games, watching videos and listening to music. When are we going to realize that mobile ad engagement is utterly over inflated by unintentional interaction?

Native Smackdown

According to a recent report by Polar, a native advertising developer, nearly one-third of native ad placements fail to comply with federal disclosure guidelines. The study pointed to one possible reason placements fail to comply: more obscure terms of disclosure actually perform better than the FTC mandated prominent disclosures. In recent months, the FTC has indeed cracked down on some companies for not clearly delineating editorial tied to advertising. What might the FTC continue to do to address non-compliance? What does this mean for advertisers, publishers and intermediaries? Content creators will of course need to strike a balance, preserving consumer trust while maintaining transparency in compliance with FTC regulations.

Consumption Dysfunction

With the growth of social platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube, more content than ever is being consumed directly in those apps and experiences. Publishers and other content creators who monetize their content directly with advertising are finding new ways to do so with solutions like Facebook Instant Articles, Pinterest, Google Accelerated Mobile Pages and in-feed video. But for brands who are publishing content, few are directly monetizing traffic with advertising, and most are gearing their efforts toward an on-property engagement model – it’s an approach that drives users back to the Brand.com or some other owned experience. What will it mean for branded content when we reach that fateful day, realizing most of it is being consumed directly in other platforms – without the brand’s control or access to data?

Taking the Medicine vs. Getting a Vaccination

At some level, we can point to the resilience of advertising and marketing in weathering the last few crises. After each one there are invariably raging debates and a few solutions put in place (i.e. symptoms and treatments). But if we take the long view it’s clear we might avoid some of the pain and unhealthiness with a bit of preventative medicine. One potent vaccine for brands would surely be creating personally relevant content experiences. Being the focus of an individual’s interest, instead of appearing next to what they’re interested in and focused on isn’t just a way around the latest and nearest crisis episodes – it’s a way over them. Would harnessing all of our creative talent, data intelligence and the latest technology innovations to provide real value to consumers be a such a radical idea?

Brands, publishers, agencies and software developers are all working hard to advance the industry and, for the most part, are diligently addressing existential industry challenges when they come up. But what we might find in the end is that we can all do extraordinarily well, by simply doing good – and that means earning our way to success by being authentically valuable to people.

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