Television is at the center of today's ad avoidance trend.
Marketing Content Strategy

Traditional Advertising Has Been Disrupted. Now What?


Consumers are more determined than ever to avoid ads online, and it’s making enough of a difference that enterprise brands are changing their marketing tactics.

Ad avoidance is nothing new. But as marketers chase consumers through more channels than ever—not just traditional advertising but social media, original online content, and other digital marketing efforts—consumers seem to be more aggressive than ever to avoid ads through any measure possible. A problem that was once restricted to TiVo and DVR has now evolved into ad-block technology and even premium subscriptions that deliver content ad-free in exchange for a higher price.

As Ad Age points out, content marketing and the US TV ad market are almost equal in their ad spending dollars—$67 billion to $70 billion, respectively. Both channels encounter consumers that do whatever they can to avoid advertisements.

The solution some marketers have turned to: Make the ad content even more appealing, even at a greater cost, so that consumers want to view the ads. But that overestimates the appeal of advertising, as well as the mindset behind ad avoidance. It also overlooks a more sustainable alternative: creative, sustainable inbound marketing.

Moving Money Toward Unavoidable Ad ChannelsShould You Move Money Toward “Unavoidable” Channels?

While Millennials have gotten much of the blame for driving this trend of ad avoidance, AudienceXpress President Walt Horstman tells eMarketer that ad-blocking solutions “appeal to a fairly broad demographic.” Companies have taken a variety of strategies to handle this: recently set up a wall that prevents users from accessing the site unless they disable their ad-blocking technology.

Combating it directly is one strategy, but not necessarily something that will curry favor with consumers. A more polite alternative is funneling resources toward channels where ads are tougher to avoid. These include social media, Google search, pre-roll video, and mobile news feeds, per Ad Age.

These don’t completely solve the problem of delivering branded storytelling, but they offer some reliable channels for reaching consumers, at least on some level.

Still, when it comes to marketing that connects with consumers and builds a narrative—especially over time—delivering content through channels where ads are more difficult to avoid is no long-term solution.

Turning Advertising into Content Marketing

Inbound marketing is the solution for brands that want to invest in content that consumers won’t want to avoid. Inbound content is seen by some as advertising like any other—in fact, a few leading advertising experts believe that to turn around negative associations with the term “ads” they just need to rebrand them as “content.”

“To some extent, it’s a distinction without much difference,” writes Jeff Neck at Ad Age, while noting that some of the best ad campaigns of recent years have had all the traits of content marketing.

So, are we to believe the advertisers who want to rebrand interrupt advertising as helpful, relevant, entertaining content? No—we aren’t.

In the digital realm, content often functions as something consumers seek out. Inbound marketing materials, such as blogs, articles, videos, whitepapers, and other brand-produced content all hope to accomplish similar goals as traditional ads—create loyal customers and generate sales. But since users seek this content out instead of getting it shoved in their faces, the attitudes toward it are entirely different.

Through a shift toward quality content, brands have an opportunity to build a sustainable marketing model that can beat the rapid advancement of ad avoidance. For brands, the focus should be on investing in storytellers and wielding creative as an asset in sustainable content marketing.

Creativity and storytelling prowess are two things advertising has always prided itself on. But in their current delivery model, creativity isn’t changing consumer attitudes. Apply those same techniques to content and you get a much different result: More accepting consumers and greater ad impact.

Despite the volatility, traditional advertising isn’t going anywhere very soon, but the floodgates have opened. A $70 billion industry doesn’t wash away overnight. But tough changes and transitions are almost certainly ahead, which makes now a prime time to adjust your organization’s mindset and start investing in a more sustainable strategy.

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