Ryan Pestano
Mar 29, 2016

When hunter becomes hunted: Beating the ad-blocking threat

How do we defuse the ad-blocking arms race and get people to actually embrace advertising?

Ryan Pestano
Ryan Pestano

As an advertising industry we continue to adopt increasingly advanced technology to better target the digital customer, however in an ironic sense of symmetry, many of those customers have now given us a taste of our own medicine and embraced technology to dictate their own ad-free digital experience.

How do we defuse this technological arms race? What do we do to encourage people to embrace advertising again? The resolution requires us to return to the fundamental dynamics of advertising—and not to overreact, as in the case of UK carrier Three partnering with Shine Technologies to provide network-level ad blocking.

This misplaced focus on the cure rather than prevention is not the answer. Delivering a better advertising experience based on one-to-one, hyper-relevant marketing, surely is. However it is easier said than done. Verizon’s recent fine from the US authorities for its use of the ‘super cookie’ highlights the level of sensitivity and transparency required when attempting to connect customer data points to unlock more relevant and targeted advertising experiences.

Anticipating needs

Being relevant in the age of the customer requires a brand to deliver a personalised experience. The ability to provide the customer what they want before they want it has to be our collective ambition—communicating one-on-one rather than to one homogenous group. Whilst personalisation of digital advertising is the new battleground, personalisation must expand to encapsulate the entire brand experience, both online and offline, on and off domain and across multiple sales and service touchpoints.

Brands must prepare themselves to connect all moments of engagement and trace the customer journey, delivering a unified view that enables them to anticipate customer needs. Starbucks illustrated the power of this approach when it achieved a 17.8 per cent year-over-year quarterly revenue increase by enabling 10 million loyal customers to pre-order and pay for their coffee via app before even entering the store, bypassing the queue altogether to collect straight from the pickup point. In my business, work with Optus in Australia is joining customer data across devices and platforms to deliver smart personalisation. Combining data about the products a customer already owns and their on- and off-domain behaviour enables the right message at the right time, which has resulted in significant ROI with twice the conversions and half the CPA (cost per action).

Blurred lines

Personalisation is as much a philosophical mindset as it is about data and technology. Within digital advertising, tech companies grew fat on the basis of optimising ROI for brands. But in the age of the customer, this approach is too one-sided. Rather brands must now use the same technology to prioritise and optimise the customers’ experience that will naturally lead to ROI gains.

Brands must change their strategy, structure and culture to place personalisation at the heart of the organisation if they are to survive. Organisational silos must be banished and replaced by collaboration and 'horizontality'. Only then can the data flow freely and the customer journey be revealed. 

Brands must draw upon new partners offering different skill sets, and a new set of solution providers combining expertise in customer experiences, ad-tech and media buying have emerged to offer business transformation through digital advertising personalisation.

Nine out of 10 marketers believe personalisation is the future (Teradata 2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey). This is comforting, as it means digital advertising has a secure future. The age of the customer has seen a democratisation of advertising technology that commands new rules of engagement and respect. Customers are the pulse of advertising, and placing a customer’s needs front and centre is the only way to win back their trust.

Ryan Pestano is vice president of product and operations in APAC for Amobee


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