Making Digital Advertising More Human

In the beginning

The world saw the birth of the first digital ad sometime in 1994 thanks to AT&T’s You Will campaign. A small rectangular box, approximately 475×55 pixels in size, appeared on HotWired and intrigued early internet users by asking “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here?” Legend has it that the banner ad garnered a 44% click-through-rate.

In the six years that followed, American households enthusiastically welcomed the PC into their homes and, in turn, the Internet. America was now online (remember those AOL CDs? Me too.) and eCommerce was booming. The “information superhighway,” as it was affectionately referred to, and the technologies that powered it evolved at lightning speeds, eventually giving way to some of today’s biggest digital publishers and eCommerce websites – Yahoo!, MSN, Amazon, and eBay. With access to thousands of websites, American shopping habits began to shift —and so did the way marketers reached them.

Unlike TV advertising, digital provided marketers with a number of demographic data points that allowed for targeted consumer reach, with speed and at scale, at a fraction of the cost. In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, and set forth a new digital revolution. Mobile devices paired with programmatic technology brought upon unprecedented reach to digital, and introduced even more data that gave marketers greater insight into where they could find their audiences — both on- and off-screen.

But while we’ve become adept at reaching consumers across the digital landscape with speed and efficiency, we may have lost sight of the bigger picture in the process.

It is no secret that consumers have become frustrated with digital. Inundated by often repetitive, irrelevant, and intrusive ads, consumers have resorted to rejecting advertiser reach by implementing ad-blocker technologies. According to PageFair’s 2017 Ad Block Report, over 11 percent of the global internet population is blocking ads on the web—a clear indication that consumer trust is eroding…and we’re running out of time to win it back

Consumers don’t hate ads; they hate bad ads

In 2016, the Coalition for Better Ads — a group dedicated to improving consumer experience with online advertising — set out to understand the types of ad experiences that were most likely to cause consumers to implement ad-blocking technologies.

According to the CBA’s findings, consumers’ least-preferred desktop and mobile web experiences include, but are not limited to, pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown, and large sticky ads.

It’s obvious: consumers don’t hate ads by default—they hate invasive, and interruptive experiences. How then, can the industry meaningfully engage consumers instead of pushing them away?

Technology + Humanity = Impact

We’ve lost sight of what advertising is meant to accomplish. It’s not about getting an impression in front of people quickly and cheaply, it’s about creating authentic connections between brands and consumers that provide people with valuable content and help advertisers drive meaningful business outcomes. Today, AI-driven technology can help marketers drive engagement by uncovering relationships and patterns between different consumer data sets. This data, combined with great creative and intelligent targeting can provide a human touch to digital without compromising what the industry loves about ad tech – scale, speed, and efficiency.

Before marketers can take this route however, they must ensure that the data being used reflects their optimization goals. Successful campaigns impact a company’s bottom line. Metrics such as CTR, VCR and viewability are great ways to determine if an impression was served, but don’t necessarily articulate business impact. Instead, marketers should focus on tying measurement and optimization to KPIs like brand lift, product preference, and sales. This type of information provides advertisers with insight into where their audiences are in the consumer journey, how to move them down the path to purchase, and how likely they are to convert.

Once marketers identify where the value is, they can embark on creating personalized engagement experiences for their audiences. With platforms like ViralGains, brands can engage their consumers in two-way conversations that lend insight into consumer preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. These first-paty insights can help brands gather the data they need to drive results and connect with people at all stages of the funnel — whether that means segmenting audiences further for additional nurturing, providing specific messaging that speaks to consumers based on their declared needs and preferences, or by driving deeper engagements based on their intent to purchase.

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends, and Influence People, once wrote “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Digital advertising has amazing potential to help brands create authentic connections with consumers. By furthering our knowledge and understanding of who they are, as well as what they want and how they feel, brands will be able to drive more impactful campaigns, and improve their customer relationships in the process.

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