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Does the Ad Industry Need Rebranding?

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past three weeks, you now realize that Apple’s next cultural coup is its mobile ad-blocking software. The idea may not have originated with the “i-brand,” but nonetheless, Apple is again at the forefront of consumer-centric innovation. And it’s dominance in the mobile device industry means that advertisers are confronting a true game-changer.

What is it about ad-blockers that have consumers running to the app-store to download, and publishers up in arms? Let’s give you a refresh. More than three years ago, satellite video operators introduced new features that gave customers the option to skip over commercials in an effort to compete with video streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu. Those features were a big hit and drove a staggering decline in TV generated ad revenue.

So perhaps the better question is “Why do consumers hate advertising?”

Advertising has always left a bad taste in some consumers’ mouths, but ever since the Average Joe got into the game, negative reactions have increased palpably. If you have a computer today—and everyone does—you can get your message in front of the masses. From sponsored social campaigns to native content, individuals now wield the power of a conglomerate marketing firm. As a result, people are now subject to more ads and message—many of which have no connection to their daily lives. No wonder roughly 198 million people around the world are now actively blocking them.

But it’s not the concept of advertising that is the problem. It’s the content and the vehicle in which it’s delivered that generate negative associations. Just imagine for a moment that you are searching for something in a department store that you desperately need and the moment you find it you are now blocked by a sales person trying to coerce you to purchase an item that you are not interested in. Your only escape is to listen to the sales pitch for 12 seconds before you are able to walk away. Now imagine running into the same scenario numerous times a day, every day for the rest of your life. This is the advertising world we now live in.

On the other side of that argument, what would consumers do if all of our favorite free social networking and blog sites required paid subscriptions for access? This is a likely reality if these sites are no longer sustainable through advertising revenue. And other forms would become much more aggressive, potentially ruining the whole digital experience.

At the same time, consumers do rely on ads for information, promotions, and in some cases entertainment. If ad-blocking software becomes the standard, content creators will have to find another way to pay for their seat at the table.

What’s the solution to our advertising dilemma?

The $58.6 billion digital advertising budget is growing larger at unprecedented rates—and as tracking and analytics become more sophisticated, brands are hitting their targets on nearly every screen available. Furthermore, programmatic advertising provides advertisers with the ability to switch platforms mid-campaign and react to real-time data.

The problem is that this tech-driven approach is driving away online readers, and harming a site’s SEO when implemented poorly. In a nutshell, the intrusive tactics and bad targeting are to blame for hate directed towards the online advertising community.

So what can the advertising industry do?

Responding to consumers in a negative way will not end well for advertisers. If you are in the business of sharing messages, listening and responding proactively will work best. First, address faulty targeting and resist the spray and pray mentality that many digital marketers share. Create impactful brand messages that resonate with your target audiences. And finally, let the data guide your efforts. Only then will your campaigns be effective and not a roadblock for online browsers.

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