Sorry mate, no ads allowed. Ad blockers have been the “next big thing to worry about” for the last few years. My opinion has been well documented and can be summed up as “it’s easy to bypass on a big Internet and just make sure you aren’t paying for the ads impressions that get blocked”. However, it’s now time for me to revise my opinion and go in the other direction.
The recent rumours that the Chrome browser (owned by Google) which has roughly 50% browser market share will be making ad blocking the default feature in their browser is a big wake up call. You would imagine it wont be all ads, just ads that are bad for the user experience. So pop-ups, auto-play video, ad units that slow down page load time or anything else that has a negative experience for the user are all potentially on the list.
From the perspective of Google, getting ahead of the trend and disrupting their own business model is something to be expected and admired. From the eGaming industry it raises some interesting questions and challenges.
Question one is what are the criteria for ads that will be allowed through? On a technical level, comparing your current banner ad technical specifications to what DoubleClick allows and IAB best practice would be a good place to start.
When we look at it from a policy perspective, what happens if Chrome decides to become the Internet ad police? An application of Google policy on ads allowed through the ad-block could mean that gambling, alcohol, tobacco, adult, payday loans and whoever else deemed unworthy are also blocked or extremely restricted. Overnight this potential application of Google policy could fundamentally changes the nature of display advertising and pretty much put your display team out of a job.
The second area to consider is contagion, if Chrome does implement ad blocking, then Safari (Apple) and Internet Explorer (Microsoft) will feel compelled to do the same but be even tougher on Ad blocking to be the "safer" browser but also to stick it to Google who is more reliant on ad revenue than they both are.
The future for eGaming display advertising as we know it, now looks bleak. So what should gambling firms be considering as course of action? Apart from lobbying for an open internet the key area will be taking a root and branch look at what advertising is and a lot can be learned from the Alcohol and Tobacco industries.
Key areas for advertising will involve a heavy reliance on product placements in traditional media such as TV, Movies and Music videos, but also with celebrities and online personalities.
The second area will be bigger and better brand activation at sporting events as well as creating bespoke sporting events or entertainment content which will become the gambling equivalent of soap operas. The parallel would be how alcohol brands sponsor music events and how Red Bull creates extreme sporting events.
The shift from current direct response advertising to more general brand experience marketing will be key to success. Realistically this should no be a surprise to any CMO in the industry, in a consolidating market such as eGaming this should be the top priority anyway, but now the urgency is even greater. The companies who can embrace and execute this level of branded content will be the ones who win.