In October 1994, the Internet experienced something groundbreaking: the first banner ad appeared on hotwired.com, now WIRED.com.
The ad was sponsored by AT&T and aimed to promote seven art museums. According to its creator, Joe McCambley, the ad experienced a 44-percent CTR—proving nearly 260x more effective than today’s average of 0.17 percent.
Instead of bombarding users with messaging, early banner ads were a part of a brand’s overarching advertising campaign, playing a role in fully immersing consumers in an ad experience. But as more people joined the Internet, albeit at a painstakingly slow speed, a massive industry was born. Seemingly overnight, scores of ad tech firms popped up, offering advertisers new ways to put their brands in front of consumers.
Enticed by the large, measurable audiences, advertisers spend billions of dollars on digital ads. According to eMarketer, US digital ad spending is expected to reach $72.09 billion this year—surpassing TV spending for the first time ever! Digital will now have a 36.8-percent share in total US media ad spending, while TV will represent 36.4 percent.
While this lucrative ad spending has funded the explosion of online content and websites, users have been inundated with ads, and often experience “banner blindness,” a phenomenon wherein online users ignore – either consciously or unconsciously – banner ads. According to a study, more than 80 percent of digital ads go ignored.
For years, the ad tech industry focused on developing a system that benefited advertisers, publishers and itself – largely ignoring users along the way, who are now plagued with annoying ads, longer loading times and privacy concerns. And while initiatives meant to protect consumers have been introduced, progress has been slow. For example, Do Not Track was introduced six years ago, but a proposed standard wasn’t published until three months ago.
Inundated and frustrated, Internet users turned to their only defense: ad blockers. Initially used by a small percentage of users, ad blocking is jeopardizing publishers’ revenue stream now that 198 million Internet users have an ad blocker installed.
So while the ad tech industry focused on maximizing margins, its scraping of dimes have cost it Internet users’ loyalty, and publishers are now left scrambling to recoup lost revenue by asking users to disable their ad blocker, banning ad blocking users altogether, or offering monthly online subscriptions.
While some publishers have reported seeing positive results, the shortcoming of these “solutions” is they aren’t addressing the root of the problem. Instead of focusing on changing users’ habits, the industry needs to build a system that works for all parties by improving the user experience.
Digital ads were initially intended to be a resource to connect brands and consumers, but because the industry has focused on maximizing an ad impressions, they now overwhelm and frustrate the user. Gladly is fixing online advertising by making online ads enjoyable.
Despite the popular notion that ad blocking users hate advertising altogether, there’s indication that most users are conscious of publishers’ dependence of ad revenue and are willing to support the content they love by allowing ads to appear. In a recent user ad blocking report conducted by Gladly, 52 percent of surveyed Goodblock users stated they were aware sites were ad supported, 72 percent of users felt some guilt for blocking ads, and 41 percent of users stated they turn off ad blocking for at least four websites.
So how can publishers effectively monetize their content without inundating users with annoying ads? By putting users in control of their own ad experience.
Gladly helps publishers monetize their content with engaging and nonintrusive ads that users can opt-in to see every time they want to support the website.
Unlike regular display ads, Gladly ads do not impede users’ reading flow, do not track their online behavior, and are lightweight. With Gladly, users have complete control over their ad experience: the user decides when to see an ad, what type of brands they’re interested in and what personal data Gladly stores (if any).
In a digital era where content is easily accessible and quickly syndicated on social media, user loyalty is invaluable to publishers. If a user visits a site that negatively affects their online experience (for example, causes long loading times and displays ads that disrupt reading flow), there’s a high likelihood they’ll leave the site altogether and view similar content elsewhere.
By giving users control of their ad experience, something they’ve demanded for years, publishers can recover any otherwise lost revenue caused by ad blockers, increase retention rates and restore users’ trust.
For too long, users have been kept captive to the every whim of the ad tech industry, where impressions and click-through rates are priorities over connecting with consumers. Gladly aims to transform the current advertising ecosystem into one where advertisers can more directly and respectfully reach users, where publishers can go back to focusing on making good content, and where users can benefit from the ads and enjoy advertising.
Interested in seeing a demo? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Giovanni Berber, Marketing