I work in advertising, but I still block ads

Barry Lowenthal is president of The Media Kitchen.

I hardly watch regular TV these days. But when I do, it’s usually recorded using my DVR so I can skip the commercials. Even when I want to watch the Oscars or the Superbowl, I’ll watch it on a 15-minute delay so I can skip the ads. It’s just a better experience. Since half of America has DVRs, most people watch the way I watch.

It’s taken me a lot longer to install AdBlock on my browser than it did to get a DVR. Initially, I resisted. I considered it stealing to install an ad-blocking plug in. After all, how could I prevent ads from being shown when it’s the ads that pay for the content?

But when I installed the plugin, I was shocked how much better the experience was. Take Business Insider. Before, I avoided it because the experience was so bad. The pages download like they’re being pulled through tar; the videos are delayed. With AdBlock, the pages download super fast. Now I read BI every day, often multiple times a day. I did the same experiment on The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, with the same results. The same even holds true for Digiday.

I’ve read a lot on both sides of the argument. One side says ads pay for the content, so ad-blocking is stealing. The other side says ads have become an enabler, and clearly they don’t work since no one clicks on them anyway. The truth lies somewhere in between. But one fact cannot be disputed: The consumer experience is far better without the ads.

As someone who works in advertising, this is troubling and freaking scary. After all, I’ve made a good living planning and buying media (and, I guess, slowing down the consumer experience along the way). But I think the possibilities and the inevitabilities are even more exciting.

Our business is changing incredibly fast. We’ve become a mobilized society, and ads don’t work very well on mobile. The screen is too small for most banners to be effective. We’ve had to reinvent advertising for mobile, and we’re going to reinvent advertising when we all start blocking ads.

Google and Facebook have done well on mobile because they’ve delivered tremendous utility to advertisers. Other publishers are going to have to figure out their place, too, or they’ll perish.

The other day, I read in the Times about the new book “The Girl In The Spider Web.” I did not find out about the book through a banner or 30-second TV spot, but I still bought it. In this case, PR was probably an important marketing channel. In our new world, different channels and new platforms, especially social, will become more important.

Ad-blocking is going to force us to reinvent our world again. Let’s stop complaining and just accept that whatever works best for the consumer is always going to win.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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