Advertising’s core objective has been to tell a simple, credible story for consumers to discover new products and services. Also, it has always subsidised content for the consumer be it on TV, newspaper or digital. While the consumer paid for the content whatever be nominal (TV or print), digital flipped completely and made it free. Ads became the only source of revenue for digital publishers whose cost was across creating, hosting, curating and distributing content.
The Crap Today
Display advertising thus got served up to consumers alongside web content, search results or social media posts. Monetization became a simple maths of reach & page views multiplied by the number of ads per page. Thus started a senseless race of slapping web/mobile pages with banner, popup & full page interstitials. Also, in order to scale, the ad formats became a standard be it X x Y banner size, a 30 sec spot or newspaper jacket ad.
These ads, from an eyesore in the beginning became interruptive and intrusive, are spoiling the whole user experience. Coupled with the overload of media, the consumers are now a part of the ’skip generation’ developing a complete distrust and distaste towards intrusive advertising.
The Media ‘Unbundling’
The largest impact of the rise of social media platforms like Facebook & Google on media companies has been their ‘unbundling’. Previously, visitors would go to home-pages where the media companies would create & curate their content. They would go from one story to the other on the portals of, say a Yahoo, MSN or Rediff or even a Times or NDTV. However today the content that used to be bundled together within a site has been ‘atomised.’
The news feeds of these social platforms decide what you and I read. A telling example of the same we witnessed last year was when these news feeds turned the world upside down for both Brexit & US elections. This great unbundling has also changed the economics aka advertising of these ‘“atomised” content. At one end it has concentrated too much power in hands of Google & Facebook and on the other end, it has changed the format from standard formats to byte-sized chunks, preferably in audio/video.
Mobile, which is ‘always on’ has transformed from a communication to a consumption device that is anytime/anywhere. Coupled with the rise of GenZ, the narrative of advertising is about to change. GenZ are those born in the late 90s & early 2000s who don’t remember a time before multiple social networks existed. They have always lived in an era when one could simply Google & Youtube to find what they’re looking for & learn about anything.
As a result, they’re self-educated on far-ranging topics from politics to spirituality. This will lead to far more diverse interests & niches leading to larger variety of demographic and psychographic personas that has ever existed in history (longtail era finally).
Brands will not be formed on what advertising tells them but what the Gen Z folks tell each other through peer reviews & experiences. Agencies will need to have hundreds of pieces of creatives that ultimately get targeted to hundreds of interest niches. It’s the end of standardisation!
Also, with so much reach & scale concentrated with platforms, publishers should start focussing on quality than quantity. It will be less about page views but more about the quality of audience and their engagement of the content. The rise of publications in the west like BarStoolSports, Brit + Co, Refinery29, etc. to Snapchat demanding a much higher valuation of $20B because of its high daily active users vis-a-vis other platforms are testimonials of this phenomena. Brands and their agencies will pay higher for this engaged niche audience. Closer home, the rise of InShorts or TVFPlay & AIB are examples of “niche is the new mass.”
Conscious Versus Unconscious Decisions
Another fascinating research by cognitive neuroscientists has revealed that only 5% of our cognitive activities (decisions, emotions, actions, behaviour) is conscious whereas the remaining 95% is generated in an unconsciousness manner. What it implies is ad experiences, hence have to become more subtle and certainly not be pushed in your face, as done today.
These forms of ads will be nonstandard and have to be painstakingly developed where brand will seamlessly blend in the content storyline as we see with TVF’s branded content stories.
Several big publishers like New York Times, BBC, BuzzFeed etc. have been launching content studios recently. Facebook and Google have huge in-house content teams that bode the rise of ‘Native Ads’ or branded/sponsored content.
What great branded content can do is provide right entertainment & value to the audience and yet convey brand features and benefits without spoiling the user experience, improving engagement and loyalty. The obvious question is about making money for the media companies? But, here’s something you all need to know. Condé Nast’s native non-standard ads are now more than 50% of their digital ad revenue.
We at Greedygame are also trying to do the same making ads beautiful within games by ensuring a non-intrusive gaming experience for gamers, good monetisation opportunities for the publishers and increased brand engagement and effective communication options for the brand owners.
The future of advertising, hence, is “fewer, better, non-standard ads.”
[The author of this post is Ankit Rawal – VP-Revenue of GreedyGame.]