Apple’s ad-blocker in release iOS 9 last Wednesday is expected to accelerate global ad blocking usage, as flurries of consumers opt out of adverts, and publishers lose out on digital revenue. So, how should publishers adapt to deliver engaging, interactive and relevant experiences that drive revenue?
First of all, let’s take a look at the current landscape. According to recent research, usage of ad blockers grew by 41% YoY (Q2 2014 – Q2 2015) globally. Alarmingly, ad blocking is estimated to cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015. And, as mobile makes up roughly 25 percent of online ad spend today, and continues to be the highest growth channel, this will mean bigger challenges for publishers in the future.
The latest iOS update could be strategy by Apple to get brands and publishers to use its mobile apps more widely to deliver content (and ads), as ad blockers don’t work on apps. Further suggesting that there has never been a more important time for publishers to revise their digital strategy, to ensure they deliver consumer experiences across their digital properties, which drive engagement and revenue, without relying on advertising.
With that in mind, take a look at these five strategies that publishers can use to stay ahead of the disruptive technology environment, and engage the tarnished ‘force-fed’ advert laden consumer to establish trust, loyalty and drive revenue.
1. Deliver Consumer Experiences Over Ads
Brand sponsored promotions, such as competitions or sweepstakes, can be an excellent way for publishing brands to boost revenue. When designed well, these provide richly-profiled data to improve segmentation and targeted advertising and offers. AOL, Bauer Media and Yahoo! run highly successful sweepstakes and quizzes across their portfolio of brands for advertisers; and well-managed competitions such as these can boost digital revenues by as much as 25%.
Leveraging media partnerships is key to driving engagement and revenue. For example, Metro recently partnered with Jeep to launch a sweepstake photo contest. A unique partnership, inspired by research which revealed 45% of Metro readers intend to buy a car in the next year and they’re more likely than average to associate driving with “a sense of freedom” and “adventure”.
Unfortunately, many online competitions are run on outmoded in-house platforms that don’t collate or combine data effectively. But today, modern platforms like EngageSciences can rapidly deploy campaigns that maximize entries, boost virality and capture data that can integrate with other sources, such as CRM, email and subscriptions.
Although there will be no narrowing of the field in terms of content produced by innovative media companies, the most successful players are likely to approach the challenges of a mobile environment in a similar way.
2. Offer Custom Content Experiences for Brands
Creative services teams can choose from a library of over 30 campaign types to support campaigns sold to advertisers, all of which can be easily customized, both in terms of the user journey, and the theme/brand style. Campaigns such as sweepstakes, contests and quizzes deliver unique consumer experiences, that simple display ads (that consumers are now likely to block) just can’t.
But, performance and scale of embedded campaigns are paramount in the media industry – just look at AOL Huffington Post that delivers 43m page impressions per day. These publishers need to be able to expand their digital media portfolio with campaigns, but need peace of mind that promotions on their sites can easily handle in excess of 10,000 page views and 4,000 entries per second, and more than 1 million entries per day.
3. User Generated Content and Brand Partnerships
Increased consumer engagement is an important feature of the new landscape. One in 10 consumers have submitted content to news websites or blogs, 46% of social network users discuss news and events on social media, and 63% of US consumers now look for content recommendations online.
A few media outlets with a notably successful user-generated content (UGC) strategy are Bauer Media, Yahoo and Huffington Post. They regularly create social hubs, sponsored by brands, featuring reader opinions and reactions around a subject or an event to engage consumer conversation.
A current example, is Bauer Media’s Grazia magazine, who’ve partnered with fashion brand Marc Jacobs, to launch their Minute by Minute London Fashion Week campaign.This features a real-time social hub, with tweets and Instagram posts, using the hashtag #LFW. To increase conversions, they also have the ability to augment this social content, with tailored call-to-actions, such as ‘Get The Look’ or ‘Shop Now’, which can lead to the retailers or fashion brands product page or storefront.
The campaign also delivers a range of other exciting consumer experiences, from live countdowns and Fashion Week flashbacks to build anticipation, and blogs to drive engagement during the event.
Yahoo!7 Sport partnered with McDonalds, to give tennis and Big Mac fans the exclusive chance to experience the Australian Open 2015. Contestants simply had to come up with fun caption relating to the featured image and submit a few personal details. The best captions were then featured on a social hub. To maximize reach, they promoted it with the hashtag #WhatALegend.
Publishing companies wanting to maximize the impact of any editorial campaign, will look to run these over multiple channels. Recent research from Nielsen found that more than 40% of TV viewers use a tablet or smartphone whilst watching TV. To make use of this second screen, publishers should deploy hashtag and photo contests throughout a TV programme, or promote competitions and sweepstakes on social media during a TV programme’s screening.
4. Collect Unified Audience Data
Running these types of consumer experiences across multiple channels will create a vast amount of first party data, and innovative companies will mine this for clues regarding the content’s success. In addition to this, and perhaps more importantly, this data will be invaluable for targeted advertising campaigns.
Content should be tagged and categorised across social media, with likes, comments and shares monitored. Other good data sources are email subscriptions, competitions entered, analysis of social network interaction, and the creation of publicly available information on social sites, such as gender and location. Subscriber accounts provide even more profiling data. All of these data sources can be integrated to improve direct marketing to individual consumers.
Today’s media companies are likely to have a powerful database able to combine data from email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; this will help them build a unified view of an audience member or group that can be matched with their CRM profile. To ensure consistent data capture, publishers should aim for a single data warehouse even when they have several titles.
5. Smarter Alternatives to Traditional Advertising
With the evolution of ad blockers, consumers will be better informed and empowered to make choices. As a result, advertisers will need to up their game and look beyond leaderboards and MPUs.
A smart approach is to use user-friendly layouts and ad formats (i.e native advertising). Native advertising, a form where the advertising resembles the site’s content, is proving successful in the new media landscape. It also isn’t classed as advertising by browsers, so won’t be blocked. It tends to be sold in packages comprising of curated UGC, branded content and planned editorial. According to IPG media lab research, native ads are viewed for as long as editorial content and are more likely to be shared than a banner ad with 32% versus 19% of respondents saying they would do so.
The onus is on publishers is to deliver quality content that consumers demand and that effectively replaces intrusive advertising, but still drive digital revenues. Their experiences must be engaging enough so consumers want to opt-in. That means more emphasis on user generated content and driving immersive consumer experiences. Ultimately, it’s all about improving engagement, audience insights and media revenues.