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BBC woes, pushbacks on programmatic and mobile ad-blocking

28 Sep 2015  |  Bob Wootton 
BBC woes, pushbacks on programmatic and mobile ad-blocking

ISBA's director of media & advertising, Bob Wootton, gives his views on the top priorities for media and advertising.

BBC Charter - Adios BBC Trust?

A lot of press right now around the BBC's future in the light of the imminent review of the 10-year Government Charter which defines its purpose, scope, and activities.

There's a strong focus on the effectiveness and future of the BBC Trust, which has not distinguished itself as successor to the discredited BBC Governors that went before it. No wonder other solutions are being considered.

Indeed, the Trust appears to be seriously sidelined already, as Chancellor Osborne and Culture Secretary Whittingdale negotiate directly with BBC DG Lord Hall, for example on sacrificing services to fund free licences for the over 75s.

Hopefully this Charter Review will be more cognizant of the rate and scale of change in the media and will act accordingly.

Pushbacks on programmatic 1 - Tech runs for the bushes

I'm pleased to report that my previous outpourings on programmatic excited some lively comment.

Apparently programmatic is the only future, the pinpoint targeting it provides eclipsing all other media channel pretenders. But if that's the case, why does everybody I know (at least, the small subset that even notices online ads) complain about being stalked for weeks by advertisers of things they've just bought?

Yes, they already bought the computer/blender/razor/whatever but surely the omnipotent internet can offer them other products.

I'm also less pleased to report that most respondents make all too quickly for the bushes of tech detail. It's getting hard to find people to engage with on the overarching drivers of the issues that our industry faces.

Pushbacks on programmatic 2 - So what's really in it for who?

When I've interrogated some of the pushback I've had about my comments on prog, or more precisely automation, two things surface.

Media owners are embracing it partly because everybody else is, and partly because it promises to enable them to sell their long tail of inventory. What we used to call the 'crap' back in the day.

Agencies likewise, but with the motivation that it already delivers massive margin hikes and will bring further efficiency and enable costly headcount reduction. Fascinatingly, neither of these are in any way connected to what their advertiser customers say they want.

P.s. Talking of prog, I went to see the latest incarnation of old prog faves King Crimson at the Hackney Empire recently. Outstanding.

Ad blocking...

...has emerged as a clear and present danger and a major talking point. A well-attended event organised by ATS at the Queen Elizabeth Hall served to remind us of the clear fissures between industry, especially publishers, ad blockers (e.g. AdBlock Plus, Shine etc.) and adblocker blockers (e.g. SourcePoint).

The 'old compact' between advertiser and consumer revolved around the moot/implicit understanding that most of the media and content wouldn't exist without the subsidy from the ads, so they were - as Jeremy Bullmore wisely offers - uninvited but fortunately relatively benign guests, and therefore tolerated.

This is being stretched online as the media owners, faced with getting pennies from digital whereas they used to see pounds from, say, paper, are trying to sustain their revenues by stuffing their pages with lots of holes for ads.

Meanwhile, the advertisers entirely understandably wish for their ads to be noticed and engaged with and therefore prefer richer media executions over dumb and easily ignored banners.

These richer media ads consume more bandwidth, especially in quantity, so they are slowing the viewing experience, especially when readers do not have a fast connection. Frustration with these slowed page loading speeds and not a general hatred of ads is surely the main driver of the now worryingly widespread adoption of adblocking softwares.

These have themselves also evolved into very user-friendly apps which only take a couple of clicks to install.

Once again, the internet has brought disintermediation and empowerment to consumers. However, amidst all this, the basic 'compact' still just about holds.

Where it gets really troubling in my view is mobile. Not only are screens necessarily too small to be hospitable to ad interventions, but the downloading of uninvited ads consumes bandwidth, depleting whatever monthly data allowance users have opted for, in turn sometimes preventing them from further accessing the content they seek unless they pay to top up their data allowance.

In other words, they are now de facto having to pay to receive uninvited guests, breaking the established 'compact'.

With the launch of a new Apple operating system with integrated adblocking, we would do well to pay this some attention now, lest the meaning of that much vaunted 'year of mobile' phrase turns from 'when will it actually lift off?' to 'well, it lasted about a year and then tanked'.

Media 2020

ISBA held a joint event with MediaSense last week at which the results of research amongst leading advertisers on their attitudes towards the media future were unveiled. Several interesting themes emerged, but two stood out.

Advertisers are now actively exploring in-boarding services they have previously outsourced, especially those closest to the customer interface like social and crm.

They also continue to rate creative agencies' contribution to/of big ideas, but are now widely questioning their role beyond that. Media agencies' role in implementing legacy media remains unquestioned, but their role beyond that is in serious question and subject to frequent challenge.

Core to this is resolving being a 'trusted advisor' against the palpable tendency from agent towards vendor. And as long as agencies' declared profits bear decreasing resemblance to their known margins, advertisers will be ever more skeptical. Agencies face an uncertain future.

At last - a BBC ad that isn't dressed for dinner

You might like or leave some individual ad executions, but BBH has always been rightly famous not only for the strategy underpinning but also the finish of its ads.

Audi

So imagine my surprise to open my paper copy of the Sunday Times magazine and see the front page spread for Audi's Q7 tub. The ad itself wouldn't trouble my own hall of fame, but it was something else that struck me.

The cover of the magazine is a different weight and finish of paper to the body. As the first spread, this ads straddles both substrates, so the left hand page's background is palpably whiter and the right hand yellower. (OK, so the scan above doesn't really show this to best advantage but I couldn't miss under domestic tungsten lighting).

Perhaps this reflects the modern fashion to decouple the production chain, but it would surely never have been allowed out like this in Big Hegsy's day?

Tweeting, part 99

People's Twitter feeds remain as bemusing as ever, especially when they're projected at events. The same ATS event saw a fair amount of flaming, an attempted feminist takeover quelled, but the cake was taken by speaker tweets telling us they were on their way to address us. That's all right then.

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13 Dec 2019 

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