Digital Ads Finally Get Out From Under the Plumbing

The following is a guest contributed post by Daniel Meehan, CEO at PadSquad.

Why has digital advertising always been approached so differently than any other form of the art?

Banners were among the earliest iterations of internet ads, and they basically filled space. Engagement rates were low, users ignored them. Online advertising was seen as ineffectual.

But social media, increased bandwidth and mobile browsing ushered in an opportunity to create ads that were highly targeted, interactive, and yes, innovative as well. Or at least, they were supposed to be.

In the rush to take advantage of all of the new ad real estate, the industry focused on the infrastructure — the plumbing — of it all. Targeting became a distinctly precise science. Ad exchanges became the norm, and the focus shifted toward the delivery, versus what was actually being delivered to the end consumer. Viewability rates were established and then gamed — the more ads you jammed onto the page, the more “viewable” the ads.

The influx of poor formats that led to the rise of ad blockers could’ve served as a death knell for digital advertising. But it may actually refresh the industry. It ends up everyone was so focused on the plumbing for digital ads, they forgot that the goal is creating something consumers actually like.

Look at TV advertising. Every brand utilizes a mix of 15- and 30-second spots, for the most part. Targeting tools are similar. The container ubiquitous. It’s what you do within the container — the creative part of the ad — that’s most important. That’s where the science and messaging of a brilliant ad come to life. Whether or not it elicits those (positive) consumer emotions or reactions make all the difference.

And for a mobile device, in particular, there’s additional challenges, too. The container is so personal to both the publisher and consumer. It’s difficult to strike the right balance on a device that holds the story of a person inside of it (figuratively). But that’s where innovation separates those on the right side of the upcoming ad-blocker conversation and those desperately trailing behind.

Chrome’s ad blocker went live on February 15, and with it comes a hard reset for the ad tech industry. The plumbing can and will still change here and there, but it will revert to its rightful place as the background noise in advertising — behind the creative experiences brands are able to share with consumers as a polite aside to digital media. Television advertising’s never been singularly focused on the technology to deliver the brand spot during your favorite primetime show. We’re on the cusp of digital advertising finally behaving similarly.

Recent industry conversations have already shown an entire ad landscape willing to follow suit. On a macro level, the conversations are moving toward creativity and why it’s important to provide consumers with something they actually want (like TV ads!). Platforms, plug-ins and data are all important for ad delivery. And an ad could even be super-targeted to the exact end-user it’s created for.

But the question for ad tech will (rightfully) be: When the ad renders on that page, will the consumer pay attention? Because if not, the plumbing doesn’t matter.

In a fragmented media world full of screens in every direction, brands and publishers are competing for eyeballs like never before. This is everyone’s chance to take advantage of a rare occurence: the clean slate. With time and money better spent on serving up the best ad, advertising can finally be at the forefront of ad tech, and stopped getting disrupted by the technology behind it.

About the author

Daniel Meehan is the CEO and founder of PadSquad, an award-winning mobile creative company consistently introducing industry-defining, hand-crafted rich-media formats on behalf of Fortune 100 and 500 brands across all verticals.