‘Advertising’s value exchange is broken; adapt or die’

fraud2Brand owners must ditch plans to find the latest cookie workaround and rethink what it means to deliver value through their advertising by making it easy for consumers to consent – both implicitly and explicitly – to marketing communications, rather than forcing them to find new ways to escape them.

That is according to the latest update of a Forrester Report entitled “The Future of Advertising is Imminent Upheaval – And You’re Not Ready For It”, which argues that, in the next era of advertising, where data deprecation is a reality, brands must radically reorient their strategies around transparency, choice, and value delivered, with a focus on the depth of the relationship itself.

As the report states, for nearly 200 years, advertising followed a set of understood rules: In exchange for free or subsidised content, consumers accepted exposure to (mostly mass) advertising – first in print, then additionally in radio, then finally on television – that was not overwhelming in its volume or intrusiveness.

However, the rise of digital advertising has changed all that. The value exchange inherent in advertising no longer works for consumers. Forrester quotes its own research which shows that more than half of online adults report avoiding ads in emails and on websites while significant numbers say they avoid ads in a variety of other online and offline media channels.

As empowered customers assert themselves in the advertising relationship or attempt to remove themselves from it entirely, the ad ecosystem faces dire consequences: If customers block ads, publishers risk losing their funding for content creation, and advertisers cannot sell their products or build their brands using publisher reach and consumer access.

But the industry created this target on its back, and digital advertising practices of the last 20 years set the stage for this consumer revolt.

To prepare for the future of advertising, Forrester argues that brands should enrich their understanding of consumers by creating better direct touchpoints and authentication opportunities that offer them clear value.

This, the study says, can take the form of quizzes, to both personalise offerings and gather valuable consumer data, or more real-time outbound offerings like live stock updates delivered into ads by a data feed.

Brands should also prioritise partners that get them closer to consumers “ethically”. The report states: “Take a long, hard look at your partner roster — from agencies to publisher partners to adtech and martech vendors — and ask yourself of each, ‘Does this partner explicitly add value to me, my target consumer, or ideally both?’

“If the answer isn’t a clear yes, walk away. Instead, invest your energy and spend into building an ecosystem that closes the distance between you and your consumers. For example, enrich your consumer understanding and access safe, high-quality inventory through select publisher partners rather than continuing to rely on broad-based buying.

“Building your bespoke ecosystem isn’t easy though, so lean on agencies, consultancies, or even tech partners’ service arms to fill the gaps in your relationships and negotiating experience.”

In addition, brands should experiment with consumer-friendly ad formats and environments as the battle between intrusive ads and consumer ad avoidance has proven to be a no-win game.

The report continues: “Lean into consumer-focused ad innovation like Hulu’s new pause ad that only appears when consumers actively hit ‘pause’. And look at native platforms that are experimenting with real-time product placement, swapping in professionally produced content to increase product/audience fit.”

It cites other successful new approaches, like Ryan Reynolds, who launched a viral ad for his Aviation Gin brand on the back of the controversial Peloton ad that had shown a woman document her year-long fitness drive after she was given a Peloton by her husband. The Aviation ad, which starred the same woman, ended with the line: “Exercise bike not included.”

Finally, brands should reorient their ad creative approach around value delivery to consumers. Forrester urges firms to stop the bifurcated brand versus direct response model of ad creation, and prioritise an ethos of delivering value to consumers, whether sharing a brand promise or trying to sell a car.

The report adds: “Ask yourself the hard questions, particularly around customer privacy and personalisation: Is the value exchange clear enough to warrant your using consumer data and attention? Are you providing the consumer an opportunity to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to personalised advertising?”

Only by adopting these approaches, will brands be able to achieve the more consumer-driven advertising of the future, Forrester concludes.

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