June 29th, 2016

Countering Ad Blocking with Creative Viewers Choose to Watch


Ace Metrix

Last week’s report from eMarketer sent another wave of panic throughout all facets of digital media by announcing that 26% of all U.S. internet users will use online ad blockers in 2016. This translates to more than 70 million people, and they expect that number to grow by 24% to 86.6 million people in 2017.

The proliferation of ad blocking is a simple and logical consumer reaction to being bombarded with terrible ads in high volume. While this may be surprising to some, we all know in our own personal experience that most ads are intrusive, annoying, and disruptive. The fundamental truth for today’s marketer is that attention for your message is no longer a given. It has to be earned. The way it is earned is by providing the viewer high quality, engaging content that they will choose to watch. It is a simple balance of power, and that balance has shifted to the viewer.

Simply put, the onus is on marketers to produce fewer and better ads. By delivering branded content that is meaningful and of value to viewers, it is more likely that they will watch it through to completion, have the ad influence their behavior, and perhaps share it with others. A number of ads we’ve see that perform well with viewers are those that pull at the heartstrings, are highly entertaining, and connect the brand to positive social causes to increase brand engagement.

Creating inspiring and effective work is hard. It’s important to understand what’s going to break through, capture attention and create that emotional connection. In the past year, we’ve seen several highly effective ads work in the ways mentioned above.

Stella Artois’ “Clean Water” is a good example of an ad tied to a social cause, in this case partnering with Water.org to donate money for clean water in developing countries for each limited edition chalice purchased. The ad was driven by the Information communicated and its positive message. In the viewer verbatim comments, viewers appreciated that Stella was providing a way to help a cause. Mattel’s “Barbie: Imagine the Possibilities” moved the needle by grabbing attention and being highly likeable, as well as connecting emotionally with its message of girl power. Viewers commented on the ad using words like “great”, “love”, “adorable”, and “funny”.

Ads that pull at heartstrings and maybe even cause some tears often grab attention and are memorable. Procter & Gamble’s “Strong” ad, part of their Olympic sponsorship, does both by focusing on the journeys of four Olympic athletes and the role their mothers played. Viewers used words like “moving,” “inspirational” and “powerful” to describe the ad, resulting in the ad scoring very high in Likeability, Attention and Relevance.  Lastly, viewers want to be entertained.  Heinz’s Super Bowl ad “Weiner Stampede” uses cute visuals and an iconic song to grab attention and remain memorable. Words like “funny”, “hilarious”, and “humorous” were prevalent in user comments, showing the the ad successfully used humor as a vehicle to engage viewers.

Another data-driven observation about these ads is they are non-polarizing. They all fall into the top 4% of ads we’ve tested for viewer agreement. Of course, polarizing ads can, and often do, garner engagement and virality, but the point here is that high viewer agreement of an ad’s greatness is a good indicator that the ad might earn viewers.

All of these ads made viewers feel something, whether powerful emotion, inspiration, and just made them laugh. These emotions count as return on attention. Viewers these days, especially millennials, expect some return for paying attention to an ad. That can come in the form of inspiration, connection, a relevant new idea or a feeling of belonging. Great creative can deliver on this return on attention.

Brands should also consider the different ways users consume content in different environments. For example, a study we did with Twitter showed that half of viewers drop off after the first ten seconds of an ad. Ads with strong completion rates had a strong hook, took a breakthrough and entertainment-oriented approach, and often used celebrities. Similarly, in a study of long form ads conducted with BuzzFeed, we found some keys to success were to entertain with emotion, give practical or “how-to” tips, and ensure an authentic fit with content. When done right, grabbing attention is a key advantage of this format.

Creating high quality content that people are interested in, rather than annoyed by, is the only way to get them to choose to watch. Testing video ads early and iterating helps ensure the best possible creative is being produced. This will lead to improved viewer experience and, over time, may help alleviate the need for ad blockers.

In the words of Gayle Fuguitt, CEO & President of the ARF, “Great creative is the kryptonite to ad blocking.”

View the ads discussed in this post here:



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Clean Water

Stella Artois




Imagine The Possibilities





Thank You, Mom - Strong

Procter & Gamble

Corporate Branding



Wiener Stampede






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