Nestle’s Pete Blackshaw on ad blocking: User experience has to become our religion

After spending time on a dramatic panel at Mobile World Congress today debating the ad blocking debate, Nestle vice president of digital and social media, Pete Blackshaw took time to speak to The Drum about his views on the issue, VR and visual ad formats.

What do you think of the state of mobile advertising? Is it fit for purpose?

There is an interesting tension in the industry right now between the area we classically refer to as advertising and an area we might refer to that’s more around service and utility orientation. I was in a panel earlier about ad blocking and clearly that issue has bubbled up to the top because a lot of consumers are getting annoyed. They are getting frustrated and they are doing everything they can, by downloading ad blockers and other means, to clear the deck of advertising.

The downside is that it’s unfairly tarnishing a lot of the good guys in the industry and we somehow need to find that right balance and we need to embrace consumer acceptance. What are types of ad models that work for consumers? We know we can get there but we are going to be very, very sensitive to overwhelming the consumer with messaging. We also need to be very sensitive to how certain types of ad formats slow down websites and be passionate about user experience. That has to be our religion when we try to win with the consumer. We can’t slow them down and if our ad models becomes too complicated and slows the consumer down, we will pay the price.

How do we stop ourselves being in a cycle with ad avoidance issues?

Well the ad avoidance debates go back 20 years ago, when I was working at P&G we had the exact same debate as we did today. What’s unique today though is that we are at an inflection point in the development of new ad formats; you’ve got the explosion of video, mobile phones are bringing a new focus on service and utility, we are entering a whole new phase of VR.

I think it’s a golden opportunity for the industry to step up and say; ok, how do we make a win, win model? Works for businesses, publishers and, most importantly, consumers. We need to view the debate as an opportunity to galvanise more industry attention around this.

Of this inflection point, what new technologies and formats are interesting to Nestle?

There are so many great opp emerging thanks to mobile. First, there is a huge convergence of online and offline; this could be a link to retailers or wearable devices, or a great piece of utility. It opens up a huge creative canvas for brands to add value to consumers. We need to do some work, we need some good old fashioned consumer understanding to figure out what the big opportunities are. But there are many. Virtual reality, for example, is going to open up a whole new canvas for us to win with consumers but we’ve got to think that one through carefully.

I am very bullish, the world of video is a very big theme too. Relative to previous years when I have been here, it feels like it’s all here now, it’s not out there in the future. And we know this because in our consumer lives, we know that mobile is transforming our lives, not all for the better.

Who is getting it right in terms of building ads into this mobile experience?

The platforms that are really focusing on the visual communication are getting good results, we are very happy with the results we’ve been getting on Facebook. But we have been innovating, today’s Facebook is very different from yesterday’s. The video formats are very promising. We’ve been testing the 360 ad formats with Nescafe and we are very happy with that. We are still on a very active test and learn.

Instagram is a very interesting platform, it’s very big with millennials but I also know as a non-millennial that it’s a pretty sticky site in terms of expressing what you are doing and where you are. Pinterest is exciting too. As someone with about 30 boards, I know how sticky that is and it’s bringing a whole new visual language opportunity.

And of course Snapchat, it’s exciting as well. I wouldn’t say candidly that I have completely figured that one out, it’s quite ephemeral but I do think an ad model will emerge. What I do think is important is that brands experiment and test and learn, really fast. At nestle that’s the kind of culture that we are trying to create.

Charlotte McEleny

I'm The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region.

When I'm not writing about this diverse and innovative region, I can be found eating Singapore's incredible food.

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