The revolution will not be ad-supported


"I'll tell you what brilliance in advertising is: 99 cents. Somebody thought of that."

Roger Sterling, Mad Men (series 1)

To an extent, online gambling marketers are merely bystanders to the ongoing debate surrounding the phenomenon of ad-blocking. Yes, the industry is affected but not so much that it can’t park the problem, at least to a degree. The ad tech world can have its existential crisis, and the online gambling operators and their affiliates will be able carry on as they were because display advertising doesn’t constitute the largest slice of the marketing pie and if anything there might be a crash in inventory pricing.

But as the report I wrote for iGaming Business (‘Shadow Blocking: The response of the igaming industry to the rise of ad-blocking’) makes clear, the debate around ad-blocking isn’t about how its effects will go largely unnoticed, or are easily avoided.

Rather it’s about what the rise of ad-blocking says about the online audience, particularly the sought-after Millennials. The audience is revolting, and an article that appeared earlier this week in Advertising Age in the US from Adam Kleinberg, chief executive at a San Francisco-based digital advertising agency Traction, was very clear about where the blame lies.

The conglomeration of software that constitutes ‘ad tech’ fundamentally represents an extremely valuable set of tools for advertisers. Being able to aggregate and make sense of data is a good thing. Being able to provide personalised and relevant messages to consumers is a good thing. Being able to eliminate inefficiency through automation is a good thing.

Then he got to the part that should have alarm bells ringing in any marketing department:

But, the lawless landscape in which this technology has emerged has created an environment that has undermined its own potential. It has had a dramatically negative impact on the perceptions of customers and the way they respond to marketers seeking their attention. An absence of accountability and limited transparency has resulted in bad user experiences and decreased loyalty - exactly the opposite of what marketers seek to achieve with advertising.

The online gambling world is affected by this as much as any other sector. As our report found, the steady rise in the use of ad-blocking is the canary in the coalmine. The consumer is in the process of evolving and it will increasingly demand more from its online experience. A knee-jerk reaction to ad-blocking, to seek workarounds and quick fixes, is not only short-term, it is also potentially counter-productive as it does nothing to address the issues of a poor user experience.

Personalisation is very much a phrase of the moment among the top operators. Make the customer feel at home and they will stay with you and ultimately spend more. So why not make sure that the way that you attract these customers is as smart and just as creative. One route will be content marketing, making the most of the attractive nature of the online gambling product, and the more forward thinking online gambling operators are already making strides in this direction using the social media tools available to them.

But to make this work these operators will also have to make better efforts in the direction of creating brands which resonate with the wider public. It may surprise many in the industry that we don’t already have brands in the online sector. But it is the obvious conclusion when we know that many of the biggest names in the industry are still among the most prolific users of exactly the type of egregiously poor online advertising that is forcing consumers to turn to ad-blockers in droves.

As Kleinberg concludes:

Advertising doesn't have to suck. We can tell great stories with digital. We can create marketing that provides value to consumers instead of hurting them. We can even leverage data to do it in an increasingly relevant and efficient way. If consumers have anything to say about it, we’ll have to.

iGaming Business will be running a webinar on Thursday 14th January at 3pm to discuss the findings from the report.. To register click here.