Does digital advertising need to change?

In 2004 when Google’s CFO George Reyes presented to bankers pre IPO profit figures jaws dropped.

Google Ads was printing money. They had grown revenues from $86 million in 2001 to $2 billion by 2004. How? Through building an easy to use bid system that allows customers to skip the search queue. It was a brilliant piece of engineering.

In the years since then a combination of competition and natural progression has seen digital advertising become far more complex. There’s now banner advertising, remarketing, paid search, paid social, in app advertising, et al. With more advertisers than ever vying for attention…

The internet has gotten messy.

It’s messy for users. There’s the banner ads which restrict or interrupt content, the tracking scripts which can slow a site down, the popups distracting you to view an offer or signup to a newsletter. All of this gets in the way of the content, which is what users want. It’s why they visited your site in the first place; not to see ads*, to see content.

It’s even messier for advertisers. You need to keep track of different ad networks and master their advertising platforms (along with their idiosyncrasies). Do we use programmatic for this campaign or will paid search deliver better results?

It’s messy for content creators, but a necessary compromise. You need advertising revenue to keep your business operating to create more content. It’s only fair.

Left to its own devices the industry is becoming less and less user-centric to the point where content is either hideously presented with pagination for individual posts or written to solely generate traffic… You’ll never guess how these shocking clickbait titles work!

Traditional advertising methods don’t put the user first.

One option to provide users a clean experience is a paywall. I can completely understand why publishers take this route. Content has value. Real people put real time into producing it. But the emotional expectation of users is that content online will be free… so publishers make paid services ad free for a pure experience. The downside then becomes subscription fatigue as users sign up to more and more services… 

So what’s the alternative?

A novel idea called Brave by the creator of javascript gives users a clean content experience, free from tracking and invasive ads but still generates revenue for content creators. How? By paying users in a currency for the unique ads they view (not banner advertising) which is then sent to the content creator directly based on the amount of time a user spends on the site. Users can even tip content creators direct within the browser.

And yes, it still uses ads. Shock! But your data never leaves your machine, ad targeting is based purely on information on your device within the browser. It’s not based on an online combined database complete with your personal details, everywhere you’ve been, websites you’ve visited, your interests, what time you usually go to work (and get home and where your home is), every YouTube video you’ve watched, every voice assistant search you’ve made… 

All of this data – it’s said – is being used to provide users with far superior tools, services and more relevant content. To an extent it has. But it’s also created a cluttered and distracting experience, and at its worst is entirely disingenuous. 

The idea of tracking-free digital revenue generation is growing fast. Brave gained almost 200,000 users in a year. Whilst it won’t subvert the advertising giants tomorrow, sentiment is turning against companies like Facebook and Google in terms of how they manage personal data and advertising. We may be entering a Brave new world.

*except if you’re visiting BandT, BestAds, or our campaign portfolio pieces.