This year will surely mark the turning point for the fall of the ad-supported model, due in part to ad blocking increases and premium publishers’ migration to ad-free, subscription-based models.

This makes me wonder why audiences are moving away from us, and why more and more people are willing to pay more just to avoid being exposed to ads.

Wasn’t it everyone’s expectation that precisely targeted digital ads would raise the public’s acceptance of advertising in the end?

Perhaps the simple explanation is that people have always hated ads. Still, TV tells us another story entirely, since ad-supported TV has always dominated the market — and to an extent it still does. Subscription TV (such as HBO) was the niche product.

In the transition from TV to digital, many things have changed — most for the better of all involved.

Still, the problem with digital is surprisingly simple: the poor technical quality of the ads we’re exposed to.

Can you recall a time, ever, when an ad didn’t work on TV? When there was a black screen broadcast, or sound came out even though the TV set was muted? Probably never.

However, in desktop and mobile environments, ads don’t work 25% to 50% of the time, depending on which research you’re citing. In OTT it’s much worse.

While we, as an industry, are focused on being cutting-edge, algorithm-driven, data-targeted, and machine-learning-powered, we forgot our bread and butter, the basic and fundamental agreement between advertiser and viewer: being considerate and not ruining his or her experience.

According to a report from Accustream, a majority of ads do not play smoothly. Additionally, according to a Hiro Media report, 20% of ads play sound even when they are muted, and 1% to 3% of ad creative includes adware. (Don’t let this low percentage fool you, while low, once you get infected you will never forget it.) The reasons for this are varied:

— Long demand chain going through multiple resellers
— Junior ad ops personnel that misconfigure the ad server, generating excessive amounts of ad calls
— Technical bugs (remember online advertising is a long piece of code, not broadcast footage)
— And arbitrage fraud — selling outstream as full episode player

None of these challenges exist in traditional media.

What can we do?

Publishers first need to understand and acknowledge that this ad quality problem exists — and just as they employ more and more powerful anti-fraud tools, they should also use anti-low-quality ad tools, such as:

— Demand path optimization (DPS) becomes critical. In fact, several tools already offer analysis of the path ads have passed.
— Real-time monitoring tools for filtering suspicious creatives.
—  Examine the file names of the ads. In many cases, the destination of the creative is what you’ll see. If you are on desktop and receive a mobile tag, you can expect a bad user experience.

It’s time the industry aligns forces to battle advertising’s poor user experience. From a publisher perspective, use ad monitoring and filtering (just as you would do for website traffic). From the advertiser perspective, it’s vital to make sure that your tech team is updated with the newest technologies and that your ads are running in the right places.

Originally published in MEDIA POST