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Ad Fraud Adblocking Digital Advertising

Digital advertising needs to grow up

By Giles Goodwin, CEO

April 14, 2016 | 4 min read

We all know there’s something wrong with the digital advertising industry. But like children pointing fingers after a playground scuffle, we’re all sure the problem started with someone else.

Whether it’s ad fraud, viewability, ad blocking or any of today’s thorny industry problems, we all have one refrain: “It’s not my fault.” Brands and agencies whine that networks and exchanges aren’t doing enough to separate human viewers from bots. Publishers complain that nefarious traffic creates distrust and drives CPMs down.

It’s time for us to admit that these excuses are just that: excuses. If we want to heal what ails us, we have to take responsibility for our ads. And that means showing them a lot more attention than we currently do. Sure, we pour countless dollars and man-hours into digital ad creative and media targeting and buying – but do we know much about how users actually interact with the results?

Think of the attention that non-ad content on a website gets in real time, thanks to services like Chartbeat. The publisher knows whether readers of a particular article are coming from search or social and whether they’re returning or new. They know where those readers are looking on the page and whether they’re reading, commenting, or idle. Publishers use those complex behavioral metrics not only to optimize headlines and article length, but to decide what topics and content to provide next.

You’d think that the ads that pay for the content on Vulture or BuzzFeed would get at least a fraction of the attention as the content itself. Think again. User engagement metrics are stuck in 2003, with views and clickthroughs still passing as relevant stats. Advertisers receive this information via spreadsheet weeks or months after the fact – too late to adapt their campaigns to user feedback. They have no idea whether a “view” means the user read and lingered on their ad, or scrolled quickly past.

Adding to the misery, it’s difficult to tell which 'views' came from users and which came from bots, and it leads to UX straight out of the nineties. Despite some strides, most digital ads are still intrusive, noisy, and annoying. It’s no wonder downloads of ad blocking software are going straight through the roof. Chartbeat sells its clients on the idea that being able to show more audience engagement on their articles will help them sell better advertising. But the sad truth is that there still isn’t a whole lot of 'better advertising' out there to fill the space.

At least one part of this ecosystem problem is simple: we in the digital advertising space aren’t listening to consumers. The feedback loop between them and us is broken. And they aren’t going to stop blocking or ignoring our ads unless we start listening.

For far too long, we’ve been content with metrics that are too simplistic to give insight on what users want, delivered too late to guide campaigns. Sure, we’ve been paying attention to the ads – but not to if anyone was paying attention to them.

This has to change. Ads, which our creatives pour so much time and effort into, deserve better. Our clients, who are paying for quality content to be free, deserve better. But most of all, consumers who we’re targeting deserve better. It’s time to step back and realize that brands, agencies and publishers need to get our industry out of the playground and into the adult world. Digital advertising, it’s time to grow up.

Giles Goodwin is CEO of Flite

Ad Fraud Adblocking Digital Advertising

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