Neil O’Keefe is DMA’s SVP of CRM and Member Engagement
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One of the most significant marketing issues of our time is ad blocking. Its potential for long-term financial harm to marketers and publishers is astounding, with Adobe determining the cost in revenue nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016 (from $21 billion to $41 billion). None other than Mary Meeker defined it as a “call to arms” for marketers and advertisers.

Ad blocking’s immediate dollar impact is call to arms enough, but when you consider its long-term damage to the marketer/customer relationship, it is more like a call to war. With an all-or-nothing choice, ad blockers cut off the two-way communications between consumers and brands – the lifeblood of a marketer’s future. The customer also loses with ad blocking as it pre-empts their choice about which brands they want to have a conversation with and which they do not.

Last Friday I was interviewed by Bloomberg West’s Emily Chang on her weekly broadcast program on tech, innovation, and the future of business. Emily point blanked asked me ‘What’s Wrong with a Little Ad Blocking?’

There are many things wrong with any ad blocking. Here are my top three:

  • Customers lose sight of the brands they want to communicate with and lose visibility to relevant products at optimal pricing.
  • Marketers lose touch with their customers and become inefficient in their marketing spend.
  • Nobody wins with ad blocking except the ad blockers.

My twenty-plus years in marketing have taught me a few simple truths. One is that when customers do not benefit, it is a bad choice.

But bad solutions can live on, and whether marketers like it or not, ad blockers are here to stay and likely can only be minimized. And here’s the twist on Mary Meeker’s point – it is a call to arms to deliver better ads. Fight ad blocking with quality ads that are relevant to customers. That is the best choice. Two other industry leaders came out over the past two weeks with very insightful comments regarding the state of online marketing:

  • GroupM announced it wouldn’t pay for ads that are re-inserted. “It’s addressing the symptom, not the cause. Let’s fix the user experience first”
  • Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP points out that we haven’t adapted to the smaller screen. But cautions that there is a price for consumer to pay for ad blocking and that is the higher cost of content.

Today’s marketing would be unrecognizable to the Mad Men like Don Draper who didn’t face a legion of ad blockers. Marketing today sits at an intersection of Science and Creativity and the best marketers are using both to create better marketing that customers will find relevant and valuable and that will end-run the ad blockers.