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What TUI, Zipcar and Shell are doing to future proof against ad-blocking

The threat of ad blocking is looming large for brands, with TUI, Zipcar and Shell revealing how they are tackling their concerns over the practice by working closer than ever before to both publishers and creatives.

With one in five people in the UK now using ad blockers, the root of the issue lies in poor targeting, the creative execution and lack of engaging formats being served up by publishers, according to speakers at the iMedia Digital Marketing Summit.

Travel company TUI’s media director for Europe, Sammy Austin said it’s been a “wake-up call for the industry” to work together but also to do some “basic due-diligence” internally including frequency capping and adhering to the Internet Advertising Bureau’s L.E.A.N programme principles (launched last year specifically to guide advertisers on best practice for user experience).

Currently the travel brand is investing more into dynamic creative in an effort to target ads based on what content people are viewing. It’s a strategy Austin’s previously outlined but is increasingly seeing the need get closer to its creative agencies as ad blocking becomes more widespread.

“We need to work with them more to make sure the things we serve are not only relevant but interesting and engaging,” she said.

Zipcar is facing the same challenges with James Cornwall, the brand’s head of consumer insights and analytics, saying ad-blocking is “without a doubt” a challenge he’s similarly combating with dynamic creative.

“What I’ve seen it [ad blocking] being used for is around retargeting but we’re now leveraging the power of third- party data from a DSP. So if someone is reading content around Zoopla that means potentially they’re moving house and our message should reflect that,” he explained.

Through this tactic he claimed to have driven a “much bigger” uplift in terms of views and quality of user, adding that “he doesn’t mind paying that bit extra” to achieve it. The next step to scale this is to introduce its own DMP.

“Partners are saying they need [rich] first party data which Zipcar has a hell of a lot of and we’re looking for a DMP to bring all of this together,” he said.

Both Zipcar and TUI are also working closer with publishers to guard against the threat of ad blocking, with the latter looking to combine its own data and that of publishers – instead of ambiguous third party data – in an effort to achieve better results.

“I struggle to understand third party data and wonder what the quality is. One trend I want to see come to life is second party data….so accessing data from a publisher or another advertiser,” said Austin.

In the programmatic space, publishers haven’t been as quick to share their data, underpinned by concerns that it erodes the transparency they get from direct guaranteed buys.

Both TUI and Zipcar said that turning to native content, which is seen “more favourably” by consumers, is the most promising option.

“We’re trying to invest more in native as a response to ad-blocking,” said Austin.

Meanwhile Daniel Williams, global online media manager at Shell, cited a survey which suggested 60 per cent of people would turn off an ad blocker to access content they wanted to see.

“So we want to make sure our ads are in an environment where people are prepared to give their time to read content. That will go a long way to reducing what we’re seeing in the ad blocking space,” he said.

“Safety and malware are not the real concerns, it’s that people are being served annoying and irrelevant ads which mean nothing to them. I want to make sure targeting is tight and to make sure we’re in the right place with the right message at the right time.”

Jennifer Faull

The Drum senior reporter Jen Faull provides news and insight on the latest developments in retail and FMCG.

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