Time to face reality


Marie Abiad, Regional Strategy Director, Wavemaker

The experience of consumers being exposed to advertising messages is like Avengers Antman travelling through the quantum realm!It’s unpleasant, he cringes as he’s anxious to get to his destination. To a certain extent, online users feel the same way about disruptive advertisements that are standing in their way of consuming the content they’re searching for.

Users reluctance to engage with disruptive advertisements online is not new news, however with the continuous shift of consumers attention and advertising budgets from offline to online media, Consumers are facing ad saturation. As more brands aim to capture more eyeballs online and achieve the reach they want, consumers have become increasingly apprehensive of the ad clutter.

The recent extensive press coverage of social platforms sharing their users’ data and data leaks, is making users more conscious and apprehensive about platforms tracking their online behavior. They share the same concerns users around the world are facing. 57% of consumers in KSA, UAE and Egypt are concerned about their personal data and while 60% say are concerned that the internet is eroding their personal privacy, according to the latest Global Web Index data.

These concerns for online privacy have led online users to block ad content. The elephant in the room is that the number of ad blockers downloaded in the region is growing exponentially. According to  global Web Index data, circa 50% of consumers in KSA, UAE and Egypt are using some type of online Ad blockers, compared to global market average at 47%.

Despite these concerns, consumers are spending even more time online. According to a study by Mozilla, online users with ad blockers spend more time online browsing (+28%) and visit a larger number of pages (+155) compared to users with no ad blockers. We are also witnessing a continuous shift of time spent on media from offline to online. In the past year, time spent on digital media has increased by around 13%, with the biggest increase coming from VOD (16%) and social media (7%). While time spent on offline media such as TV has been declining by single digits.

Has ad saturation and over-targeting disrupted the user experience online? What has led users to actively avoid ads? Are advertisers not creating relevant & targeted content? As an industry, should we start panicking?

Campaign success is habitually measured by the number of people reached, viewed or engaged with the content. To achieve these metrics, online advertisers are targeting large pools of users across platforms with generic messaging, with the aim of achieving the maximum reach and online viewership possible. As an industry, if we continue to pursue online reach over relevance, then users will continue to feel disgruntled about online ads and avoid them. Is the current media ecosystem sustainable in the long run?

Data and technology have enabled us to target online users with more precision, using data from multiple sources, including browsing behaviour, website analytics, social media, surveys and purchase behaviour. Precision marketing enables us to use these digital data signals to find the right audiences and engage them in customised brand experiences. Creating the right impact at every step of the purchase journey is crucial, whether the goal is to create a brand bias through brand building activities or drive sales through tactical messaging.

The current ecosystem needs to evolve to deliver precision marketing at scale. Today, most of the media isn’t addressable. Less than 3% of TV ad spend in the US is addressable, which accounts for only about 5% of all available inventory, according to Econsultancy. Advertisers have to compromise on lower reach for more targeted personalised campaigns. To deliver personalisation and scalability, offline and online media platforms need to evolve their buying models.

The first and main challenge is scalability. The amount of ad inventory that’s available for addressable content remains too low and limited to digital platforms. Advertisers are shying away from  addressable media, as the approach means a lower reach and a higher CPM on campaign deliveries. For now, addressable media will continue to deliver lower reach metrics.

Thus, it creates a perception that addressable media delivers less for the same dollar value. But addressable media can deliver an effective ROI and a higher uplift for both brand and business metrics when compared to targeting a broad audience with the same message. Post campaign reporting needs to look beyond media metrics and isolate the incremental impact of addressable media against brand and business KPIs.

The second challenge is in media measurement. Measurement of non-addressable media is still complex and costly. A fragmented digital media landscape means one has to buy inventory across different platforms. Measuring the brand and business impact of all platforms is intricate and expensive as each platform defines its metrics differently and has its own measurement products. The ability to measure the impact of digital campaigns holistically across all platforms is key to the  evolution and growth of addressable media. More holistic and efficient media measurement solutions are needed for faster adoption of addressable media.

Addressable media is yet to go mainstream. Until its superior performance can be proven, we will continue playing the same reach game, where the bigger the numbers, the better we all feel about the work we are doing. But are we creating effective brand engagement for the consumers we want to connect with and brands we wish to build? At the end of the day, online users will have the final say, to block or not to block.