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2016-10-05When are we going to see responsible advertising?

This is an article written by Jules Minvielle, CEO & founder of Mozoo group.  As a digital advertising expert Jules regularly shares his knowledge at digital events and is featured in articles from specialised websites. Mobile advertising, adblocking, fair advertising and programmatic buying are just a sample of the topics that he discusses and debates on a regular basis. He is also one of the Ambassador of the French Tech Hub in London and Advisory Board Member in the French Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom.

In 2014, I published an article warning professionals in the industry about the consequences of the excessive practices prevalent in mobile web advertising. It is now two years later and mobile web users remain still just as resistant to advertising.

Today, however, the signs are clear: Google plans to penalise interstitials that are too intrusive, and Apple, with iOS9, has now made it possible for mobile web users to install ad blockers.

Though the phenomenon is not yet widespread, users’ intentions are clear. A study we carried out in June 2016 using a sample of 1000 French mobile internet users to represent the French population illustrates this trend. Though only 4% have already installed an ad blocker on their smartphone, more than 1 in 5 intend to install one in the coming months.

Will they actually do this? It’s up to us to dissuade them. Here are my ideas about what to do to avoid ending up in a situation where over 40% of smartphones have ad blockers installed, as is the case with PCs/laptops.

EDUCATE MOBILE WEB USERS

The majority of ad blocker users are young men; and though no study has dared ask this question, it is very clear that the first installation of an ad blocker normally occurs after a visit to an illegal streaming or an adult site, which are well known for inundating users continually with intrusive pop-ups that make it almost impossible to access the desired content.

Though the irritation some users feel when dealing with unscrupulous websites is understandable, we cannot accept a situation where responsible online media websites end up paying for the abusive behaviour of others.

Once an ad blocker has been installed, it basically blocks all types of advertising on all websites indiscriminately.

We proved, with our study, that educating mobile internet users has an impact on their behaviour. Once they realise the consequences of their actions on the economic viability of the media they use, they become willing to allow advertising on particular favourite sites. This is therefore the direction in which to continue going. Media companies need to develop more initiatives along the lines of LEAN principles and we need to continue making our voices heard on this matter. But let’s not be under any illusions. Pointing the finger at users will make no sense unless we, as advertising professionals, are also prepared to change our own questionable behaviour.

CREATE ADVERTISEMENTS THAT ARE ADAPTED FOR THE SCREEN ON WHICH THEY ARE DISPLAYED.

Smartphones are the most personal items we have: we fall asleep with them by our side; they are there when we get up in the morning; and we take them with us everywhere (including to the toilet). On these media devices, even more so than on others, advertising must be carried out responsibly.

This has to be achieved through the quality of the advertising content we provide. It is no longer possible to simply display 16:9 format advertisements that were made for television, run for more than 30 seconds and in which sound is an essential part. Mobile devices are a platform on which media is consumed swiftly and often: a screen-based connected device held vertically in over 95% of cases by users and which has the sound turned off in more than 90% of situations. Advertisers must produce and display content that is adapted for each different kind of device and not try to recycle content made specifically for television or desktops/laptops.

LIMIT BOTH THE LENGTH OF TIMER USERS ARE EXPOSED TO AN ADVERTISMENT AND THE NUMBER OF TIMES THEY SEE IT

It has been proven that repeating an advertising message too often is counterproductive. In the race for clicks, however, some industry actors display their advertising campaigns to users over and over again without restraint.

Advertisers, media agencies and website owners need to be stricter about implementing caps on advertising to avoid exposing users to the same advert too many times.

PRESENT USERS WITH RELEVANT, TARGETED ADVERTISEMENTS

Technologies that permit targeting of users are now more sophisticated than ever, and this is even more true in the case of mobile devices than it is for all other platforms. And yet professionals in the industry continue to produce non-targeted advertising content, and this is far too often due to laziness and because they do not appreciate the immediate benefits of doing otherwise.

The study reveals that the relevance of the message is the primary factor when it comes to motivating mobile web users to accept mobile advertising and – most importantly of all – convincing them not to install an ad blocker. According to the data, 58% of French mobile web users prefer receiving advertising messages that provide them with useful information and 50% prefer messages specifically tailored to their own interests.

DO NOT USE ADVERTISING FORMATS THAT HAVE BEEN CRITICISED AND REJECTED BY MOBILE WEB USERS

The online audience is migrating over to mobile devices. However, because a webpage displayed on a mobile device contains fewer advertisements, it earns less revenue for the website manager than the same page viewed on a desktop/laptop. This is why the use of interstitials – which use formats that take up the whole screen on smartphones – has become much more widespread. These generate much more revenue for content managers and also offer a very powerful way for advertisers to create a more memorable message.

However, they do have a major drawback: they interrupt the mobile web user’s browsing experience. How many times have you found yourself interrupted by an interstitial that takes up the whole screen, even before you’ve had the chance to begin reading your article?

Unrestrained use and display of these formats is short-term thinking. Together, we need to come up with a compromise approach able to serve the needs of advertisers, website managers and users all at the same time.

Technology is advancing faster than legislators can keep up with, especially where new platforms such as smartphones are concerned. This has led to excesses in a number of sectors, including that of advertising; which, due to the abuses taking place, is in the process of sawing through the very branch on which it is sitting. To prevent the situation getting worse, account must be taken of the opinions of users. Having published the results of our study, we now hope to set an example by launching a new range of advertising formats that only display once the mobile web user has finished viewing their content. These new formats still create impact for advertisers, and still generate revenue for website managers. However, they interfere less with the user experience.

As a response to the results of this study, we are thus committing ourselves to ensuring that mobile web users receive high quality, relevant advertising messages that do not interrupt their browsing, and that these are available to any advertiser, media agency or website manager who wishes to make use of them. To the question “When are we going to see responsible advertising?” My reply is: Now!

To find out more about our formats, watch the video.

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