12 July 2017

Why we must redefine advertising standards and content in the digital age.

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The wave of digitalisation that has swept across the planet has transformed the advertising sector.

Consumerism and the advent of the internet has meant that we now live in a society whereby corporate messages are an inescapable reality that penetrate into every aspect of our lives. The Madison Avenue Advertising Executives of the 1920s could only have dreamed of such unlimited access. However, the increased capabilities of corporations to reach their potential client base does raise important questions about the future of the industry and how a balance must be struck between spreading a message and not intruding too much into people’s day to day lives. An example of this can be seen in the rise of programs such as AdBlocker which shows a shift in public perception towards aggressive advertising methods which have been increasingly employed in recent years.

One such man who is seeking to challenge these perceptions is Steven Verbruggen, the Managing Partner of bannering specialists AdSomeNoise. Verbruggen is on a mission to reinvent the concept of bannering and is a prominent voice in the debate over the future of online advertising. He sees an industry at a crossroads that must redefine its relationship with its audience as its capabilities become increasingly powerful.

An increasingly controversial area of online advertising is in forcing the public to engage with content against their will. This can be seen especially prominently with video streaming services such as YouTube whereby preroll ads will play at the beginning of almost every video on the site. Verbruggen cites this as an example of where advertisers must change their methods as well as their expectations for an online campaign. In the particular case of online video, he proposes placing ads at the end which do not intrude on the user’s experience. Making such material optional to watch will obviously seriously reduce viewership but Verbruggen points out that this is where the crucial advantage lies. He states “the 10 [viewers who optionally watch your video] might be worth more than the 1000 that are forced to see your ad at the beginning” as they are willingly engaging with content. Embracing voluntary engagement in all formats is key to redefining standards within the industry and establishing a stronger relationship with the public (YouTube is beginning to move in this direction). A further advantage is that making such a change would help to increase the quality of content that is produced by companies. This is an angle that organisations such as IAB in the United States are particularly keen to drive forward.

Creating content that the viewer enjoys and wants to actively engage with should be at the heart of what a campaign strives for. You only need to look as far as the cult status of Britain’s John Lewis Christmas advert or Spain’s Estrella Damm Summer short film to see the vast benefits of a more innovative approach to campaigns.

Verbruggen advocates a less aggressive form of advertising but admits that we will not see an end to preroll and autoplay content any time soon. He compares the prevalence of such techniques with Aesop’s fable of The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs arguing that the target and money-centric nature of the industry could prove an obstacle to its longterm evolution and future profitability. The progress of Verbruggen and his agency AdSomeNoise is one to keep tabs on. They’re a driving force behind a change of culture in an industry that is undergoing a vast period of transition, forging new pathways which others will eventually follow.