I love online ads. Whenever I'm reading an article, nothing makes me happier than chasing a pop-up around the screen. That's definitely not the most annoying way for marketers to gain customer attention.
Despite their obvious drawbacks and limited effectiveness, ads that try to trick people into clicking still exist. It's 2018--we have chatbots that deliver personalized audience experiences, but companies still run ads that hide their minuscule "x" buttons in the bottom-left corner. Something needs to change.
Fortunately, Google agrees. In the Google Chrome update set to hit browsers on Feb. 15, ads that don't meet a standard of quality will be eliminated. These changes will benefit both users and marketers, but how do they work, and how will businesses need to adjust their online strategies?
What Does This Update Do?
Many people already use ad-blocking add-ons in their browsers, but Google's update works a bit differently. Rather than block all ads indiscriminately, Chrome blocks advertising on sites that fail to comply with the new rules.
After the update, sites will be barred from showing full-page interstitial ads, flashing ads, or ads that crank up the volume, among others. If a website throws a "Congratulations, One Millionth Visitor!" ad over the whole page, complete with sparkles and music, that ad--and all others on that website--will be blocked under Google's update. Single violations won't automatically blacklist sites, but if those violations go uncorrected or multiply, Google will bring down the hammer.
To determine which ads are unacceptable, Google is working with the Coalition for Better Ads on the Better Ads Experience Program. With most of its revenue dependent on advertising, Google doesn't want to kill online ads outright--only make compliant ads more tolerable. Ideally, Google hopes this initiative will decrease the popularity of those plug-ins that block all ads indiscriminately, improving the user experience at the expense of online content creators.
How Should Marketers Prepare?
Most successful marketers don't depend on intrusive ads to drive revenue, but these changes affect everyone, offender or not. To stay compliant and continue to earn positive consumer attention, brands should focus on two important factors: better experiences and digital accountability.
High-quality online experiences are invaluable for audiences, advertisers, and publishers alike. No one feels attacked by flying pop-ups, and if the brand content matches the audience interest and publisher environment, an ad is far more likely to lead to opportunity. Anything you can do to improve the user experience--such as enforcing higher standards and designing more user-friendly ads--will benefit everyone involved.
Marketers must hold themselves accountable to this new digital expectation. As always, you should produce helpful, authentic content and do everything you can to distribute your content to the right people--not by shoving it in their faces but by focusing on their needs and meeting them where they are. Yes, this means your content has to be great in order to attract audience attention, but content shoved in your audience members' faces never worked anyway.
Online ads are just one part of a digital marketing strategy, but they do play a role in how an audience feels about your brand. The better your ads are and the better online experience you deliver, the more likely people will be to trust you.
For example, a company that claims to be all about online privacy yet delivers invasive ads probably won't win many new customers. Only high-quality, consistent content can develop strong relationships, and your ads need to be aligned with that.
These new ad standards are a step in the right direction, but when it comes to improved online experiences, they're just the beginning. Marketers still have a long way to go to earn audience trust. By focusing on creating high-quality content and holding themselves accountable, marketers can embrace these changes from Google and prepare for success in a new era of online advertising.