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The perfect storm


The ultimate goal of direct marketing is to deliver the 'right ad to the right person at the right time'. So riddle us this: with all the data available to us - likes, dislikes, shopping habits, age, address, inside leg measurement, etc, why are there so many wrong ads to the wrong people at the wrong time? Why are more and more consumers using ad blockers? According to PageFair and Adobe's 2015 Global Adblocking Report, there are now 198 million active adblock users around the world! Let's take stock for a second - digital marketers are making more ads, publishers are hosting more ads, but consumers are telling us they want to see fewer ads. Surely something is broken in our industry and GDPR might just be the thing to fix it. No, we've not gone mad, but we do think a perfect storm is brewing!

Now think about this - brand advertising vs. direct marketing. Brand advertising builds brands by delivering subliminal messages to large audiences for long-term benefit. Direct marketing gets immediate, trackable responses from a targeted set of people. Most of us will remember a really good ad we saw on TV or on a billboard for years, but will we remember the five ads we saw when we logged on this morning? But, brand advertising is expensive and is all about building the business over the long term. For direct marketing, the reverse is true which is why it is so attractive. And it works, of course it does. Direct marketing has been around for 20 years, it can't all be bad! And it isn't, it's brilliant! But retargeting marketing and too many ads have been slowly killing us. Retargeting marketing is why more and more people are using adblockers, according to Doc Searls, tech boffin and Linux Journal editor. It has got out of hand.

Are you still with us? We are not suggesting doing away with direct marketing by any stretch of the imagination but making it more memorable. How about we think constructively about this? Without data, how are we going to target people? How are we going to serve them ads that they don't block? With 67% of people being "very highly" or "highly" concerned about their online behaviour being tracked according to PageFair, what do we do? Well, the answer is in the planning. We seem to have been blinded by data and forgotten about the people on the other side of the screens. We need to put the user experience at the heart of our planning in order to deliver better ads at better times that provide better value. Serving a tiny ad that someone clicks on by mistake because it is right on top of the "next page" button is not really a click through, although it will be recorded as one - it's a mistake and that's why direct marketers and publishers have been blinded by data rather than guided by it. And that is why native ads perform so well because they have the end user in mind - although before we put all our eggs in the native ad basket, they too are not immune to adblocking!

Our industry lives on data, so the introduction of the GDPR regulations will not be a walk in the park, but it won't be the Armageddon it is made out to be either. It will just force us all to go back to the drawing board and think more creatively. Chris Savage, co-founder of Wistia, an Internet video hosting and analytics company says, "When we all have access to the same types of data, it won't be the data that differentiates us, it'll be the art." And it will be in the art that we will be able to serve the "right ad, to the right people, at the right time".

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