Blocked out? Try this

Abhilasha Ojha
According to a report released last year by PageFair, a Dublin-based company that helps sites detect when their ads are being blocked, the use of ad blocking was growing at a rate of 43 per cent annually. On Google, searches for the term 'adblock' have doubled year after year. Experts note that there has also been an increase in ad-and-tracking blocking services with software like AdBlock Plus, Disconnect and Abine ensuring that pesky online ads are blocked by viewers. Given this, how should advertisers go about getting noticed online and remain relevant to users?

Online is about storytelling, not story yelling: Sanjay Menon

Ad blocking by consumers is something not just done online through ad filtering software but also while changing channels when there are ads on television. To examine this behaviour, online is focusing on the symptom and not understanding the root cause. Skip Ad is the most used button on YouTube and that should tell us the message that consumers are telling brands, "Stop putting yourself on a pedestal and telling me your story."

Advertising today is a lot about story 'yelling' and not interactive storytelling. Consumers are looking for brands that will have a conversation with them about things they value. They will adopt brands that provide content that connect with them emotionally and not just hawk their product. They would buy products but only after brands have created consistent and compelling experiences for them through various touch points in the physical or digital space.

Brands need to create a world of experiences for the consumers rather than just creating flat ads that communicate functional value and feel purely transactional. If brands don't want their ads blocked they need to start creating content that resonates with consumers. The Dove beauty sketches and Unilever project Sunlight are great examples of engaging content that creates brand affinity. These ads didn't push any particular product, they established an emotional connect with the consumer.

Brands need to be available at the point where the consumer is expressing interest or seeking information and then stay through their journey from engagement to transaction. Tripadvisor is a good example. It is a popular site for reviews and planning travel and, therefore, a popular choice for browsing and booking hotels. The brand provides useful content around holidays and themes and doesn't scream pure offers.

Pick another scenario of someone looking for cosmetics - the content regarding reviews or videos on how to apply make up would be the conversation point for a brand to engage consumers and then lead to the point of sale of the product. Net-a-porter is a premium luxury retailer but is better known for being the destination where one can read about fashion. Similarly, a consumer looking for recipes and finding a site owned by a brand selling food products that celebrates good cooking and shares recipes would really appreciate the effort. In this case, you are now likely to start a relationship and buy food products from that brand the next time you need it. The difference lies in how an ad gets blocked and how a conversation blossoms.

Sanjay Menon
VP & India Marketing Services Lead, SapientNitro

Communicate creatively to avoid getting skipped: Zafar Rais

With the digital advertising market increasing from Rs 1,750 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 2,260 crore in 2012-13, there is a clear shift on the part of companies looking at online advertising spends. Video advertising comprised Rs 158.2 crore marketing spends for the year 2012-2013. Given the penchant of advertisers to spend online, it becomes important for brands and businesses promoting their products and services to gauge the viewability of their ads. Surprisingly, only 50 per cent of online ads are actually viewable.

Despite the challenges, online advertising is seeing tremendous growth with many advertising agencies making digital advertising a core tool and a part of the 360-degree marketing solution. Further, they are also finding ways to tackle the viewability issue. In fact, advertisers and marketing publishers increased viewability by a substantial 23.5 per cent in 2013. In the previous year, this figure was roughly 15 per cent.

Viewers will only pay attention to you if your advertisement conveys the ability to hear and comprehend what they need and if it suits their interest areas. The result of acting on a consumer's priority will result in the creation of better brand relationships that will be beneficial to both the parties. A great deal of positive brand identification can be witnessed with an insightful advertising campaign keeping in mind the nature of online user behaviour. If an advertisement does not grasp the attention of the viewer in the first three seconds, the ad will be 'skipped' as soon as the user gets the option to 'Skip Ad'. Thus companies need to create the engagement within the first three seconds. Look at what HomeShop18 did: The company realised that it could not hold the viewer's attention by merely talking about the brand. It was then that it created two cat characters called Billy and Sunny who, while sharing jokes, also communicated the values of the brand to hold the interest of the viewers. Instead of using the 'Skip Ad' option, HomeShop18 noted that users saw the entire advertisement online.

The key is to leverage maximum traction for your brand with the right selection of the platform, customising the content for the platform and showcasing it to your desired target group.

Zafar Rais
CEO, MindShift Interactive

Good advertising can lead to action: Prateek N Kumar

In today's digital environment with all the broadband connectivity and smart devices, the line blurring between the real and virtual, many brands are making an effort to create virtually real experiences to reach out to their consumers. Now technology allows them a two-way communication with their target audience unlike in an earlier era when they were left doing only the talking. Not only do consumers respond in real time on the digital platform, it is faster, more measurable and result-driven and helps brands understand their users and reward loyalty.

Data on internet usage is used to push tailor-made content and advertisements relevant to users. Powered by "cookies" or information captured, different web applications can push their information to their targets. Keyword buys, search engine listings, behavioural targeting, permission-based e-mail, sponsorship and promotions, whatever may be the element, what makes an ad click is its relevance and emotional connect.

Today the customer is more informed and the advent of social media has changed them from users to influencers in the true sense. Globally, companies tie up with bloggers and websites where they feel their content can get targeted audiences. Giving an editorial twist to advertisements is a good way to reach out. For example, a film production company can leverage conversation when it is present on a blog that is specific to films and television reviews. Here even a banner ad can get noticed and the viewer might click on it. Engaging in story-telling to capture attention is better than using the online platform to sell products. This is a platform where ads have to be less intrusive yet establish one-on-one connection.

Prateek N Kumar
CEO & MD, NeoNiche

First Published: Aug 04 2014 | 12:11 PM IST

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