Spooner on…ad-blocking and the creative malaise

spooner newThere is no finer source of information, opinion and, indeed, salacious gossip, than this, Charlie McKelvey’s enormously vivacious online organ, DecisionMarketing.
It is at the top of my list of bookmarks and is my ‘go-to’ publication when it comes to what’s what and what’s not in this rambunctious business of ours.
So it was no surprise to me when I found myself vehemently concurring with the views of Greg Isbister, chief executive and founder of ‘Blis’ in his recent article on these very virtual pages.
Greg (I hope he’ll excuse the familiarity) tells it like it is in discussing the widespread failure of the industry in general to ensure that “the right ads are served to the right people, at the right time, and in the right location. Through this approach, ads become interesting, engaging and valuable to consumers, discouraging them from deploying ad blockers in the first place”.
Sadly, I fear Greg is optimistic in hoping that many advertisers can “find the right people at the right time in the right location” but where he is yet more heart-rendingly dewy-eyed (and I admire him for it) is in hoping that we, as an industry, can create “the right ads”.
Naturally, all of Tangible’s clients are so well-advised that they are able to stride through the dark forest of digital advertising, holding before them the burning, triple-sword of intelligent customer-profiling, intelligent media-planning and intelligent creative execution.
But sadly, not every advertiser is a Tangible client.
And the mistake that many advertisers make (those few who do not read Mr McKelvey’s prestigious organ and those many not fortunate enough to be advised by Tangible) is in thinking that PRESENCE IS ENOUGH.
Clients are clever, most of them know their customers well enough to understand which of the Internet’s many purlieus they inhabit, which of its wide-open prairies, which of its densest thickets. They possess the map references, they know their “little ways” and they know how to plonk their products and services down in front of their customers with some exactitude.
But do they know how to surprise and delight those customers?
In order to surprise and delight their customers, advertisers need to brief their agencies well and allow them to devise exciting creative solutions.
And agencies need to recognise that the tiny, jewel-like spaces that they are being asked to populate represent a real opportunity to produce high-quality creative work.
Senior creative teams should be fighting for the opportunity to grab those leaderboards, skyscrapers and MPUs, should be desperate to snag those mobile ads, should be stampeding for the opportunity to deliver those Facebook promotions. Yes, 48-sheet posters are nice and nothing beats a 30-second TV commercial or a full-page long-copy ad BUT if you are a creative practitioner in this industry you should be taking notice of where your bloody audience is.
Of course, they are still driving past billboards and waiting next to Adshels, they are still tuning into Coronation Street and deliquescing over their Sunday magazines BUT YOU MAY HAVE ACTUALLY NOTICED that they are all staring at a bloody screen all the time. And unless you seize the opportunity to own that medium with your ‘SICK SKILLZ’ that junior team will soon be handing you your P45, granddad.
So, to briefly recapitulate, Greg Isbister is absolutely right BUT the responsibility for the rise of the adblockers is not the advertisers’ alone. As so often, it is down to creative people’s snootiness and reluctance to “own the medium”.
Look at how the once-neglected channel of radio has blossomed and flourished since advertising people began to celebrate it with initiatives like the Aerial Awards. Yes, there are still terrible radio ads with helium-assisted Ts&Cs out there but there are also intelligent, sensitive and successful campaigns that get talked about from Shoreditch to Soho House.
I have yet to overhear a creative team boasting about the great digital campaign they have just come up with – but that may be because I don’t know where your junior creative team is drinking these days.
Perhaps you should track them down and buy them a drink? hat’s what the devastatingly attractive and modish Mr McKelvey and I are off to do RIGHT NOW.

Jonathan Spooner is executive creative director at Tangible

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