GDPR enforcement has not fixed the user experience, according to Marketing Week. Despite hopes that more stringent data control and regulation would strengthen relationships between brands and consumers, concerns digital services may still be missing the mark persist.
And it seems prominent industry players, from advertising technology giants to ad blocking providers, agree more work is needed. The last few months have seen Eyeo unveil new acceptable ads criteria intended to limit disruption on mobile, and Google launch a cross-device tracking tool that promises to boost relevance by tracing individuals instead of devices. Meanwhile, Spotify is testing an innovative format — Active Media — that allows users to skip both video and audio ads.
But are any of these initiatives enough? This question topped the agenda at a recent Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) seminar, where industry thought leaders sought to diagnose the issues impeding the user experience and how to solve them.
Here are the top three issues:
Too many adds, too little value
Rowly Bourne, founder of Rezonence, believes there are two key problems: too many ads and the lack of a “viable value exchange”. As the number of ads per page grows, users are increasingly frustrated by slow page loads and interrupted content consumption; whether ads adhere to IAB standards or not. This annoyance is compounded by the limited value users receive for viewing ads. Highlighting the rise of click-bait, Bourne argued some publishers have made revenue the core focus of digital strategy and prioritise attracting users to pages over delivering positive experiences.
His proposed solution involves a change in approach for both brands and publishers. Buyers must pick ad tech partners carefully; only selecting those with direct publisher relationships and a range of high-yield ads that negate the need for sites to overfill pages. On the sell-side, the value exchange needs to offer tangible benefits for users, such as one month of content access in return for viewing an ad.
Limited ad quality commitment
Ad quality is at the root of the user experience challenge for Steve Myslinski, business development director at OpenX. In addition to citing the increase in brand safety concerns — largely driven by ad misplacement and fraud — he points to the ill-considered use of ad formats. For example, the 300×250 ratio is still a popular choice for in-banner video, but this means ads are frequently squeezed into smaller video players, which doesn’t provide a good viewing experience for users.
Advising that “quality is a choice, not a guarantee”, Myslinski feels the next step is clear: industry-wide dedication to raising quality standards. Not only should advertisers move away from disruptive ads and towards more engaging formats — especially native, rich media ads, and opt-in video — but all members of the ecosystem also need to embrace independent verification. Initiatives such as the IAB’s ads.txt and certification from third parties, including Integral Ad Science (IAS) and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), are crucial to improve trust and improve ad quality benchmarks.
Failure to accommodate mobile
The call for better mobile creative isn’t new, but James Shepherd — managing partner for M&C Saatchi Mobile — feels it’s one the industry hasn’t fully answered. While most brands and publishers know consumers expect content to adapt as they move between devices, Shepherd thinks old habits are dying hard: desktop formats are still used in the mobile environment. This may be the reason why research from Nielsen shows that audiences have learned to tune out mobile ads just as they do on desktop. It is therefore essential that the industry recognises mobile is no longer an emerging technology but a fundamental part of the multi-channel mix. Mobile-specific creative and contextual targeting — using location data — are now essential to deliver experiences that drive interest instead of ad blindness.
The GDPR is a step in the right direction for all industries, including digital advertising. With greater transparency around how, when and why data is deployed, there is hope for brands to form lasting and more trusted bonds with audiences. But leaders agree it isn’t a magic wand. As long as issues with ad density, quality, and contextual relevance remain, the user experience will be a work in progress.