The recent announcement by Google that it will soon “permanently retire” interstitial advertising was met with glee and giddy laughter by many Internet users.
Interstitial ads are those annoying full-screen ads that take over your mobile device and require you to tap on the ad or close it to get to your desired content. These ads can be so frustrating that some users back out of the page altogether rather than fight to see the content.
The search giant says it started demoting the interstitial ads that prompt users to download an app as of November 1, 2015. More accurately, mobile web pages showing an app-install ad that hides a significant amount of content will no longer be considered mobile-friendly.
While this is the first step, other interstitial ads may be on the chopping block soon, if Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, is to be believed.
In September, a second battle cry was sounded against digital advertisers when Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9. Apple’s new OS included the ability for users to install ad blocker apps, which prevent interstitials and other kinds of ads from being viewed in Safari, the native web browser for iPhones and iPads.
Apple’s new OS included the ability for users to install ad blocker apps, which prevent interstitials and other kinds of ads from being viewed in Safari, the native web browser for iPhones and iPads. While a debate has raged about who exactly the ad blockers really hurt, a much bigger discussion looms: two of the world’s largest tech giants have made it abundantly clear that the user experience shall not be infringed by anyone or anything.
While users couldn’t be happier, advertisers are scrambling to figure out what is becoming a chaotic new advertising landscape.
After Apple's announcement, the connection between what Google is doing by demoting big, annoying ads and what Apple is doing by allowing the blocking of ads altogether is clear. They're both prioritizing the user experience and weeding out slum marketers. In Apple's case, they may have taken it a bit too far by inadvertently punishing publishers, but the message from both companies is not confusing: “We expect more from you, Mobile Advertising Industry.”
Legitimate, honest marketers and advertisers shouldn’t see the crackdown as anything less than a positive. That’s not just an optimistic way of looking at the situation, either. It’s the only way to look at it. Google and Apple are just the first two companies to test the anti-advertising market. If the public reception and feedback are positive (and why wouldn’t they be?), other search marketing and hardware design companies will likely follow suit.
While Google has a duty to safeguard the primary source of revenue for publishers, Apple has no natural allegiance to advertisers whatsoever. Users—and only users—drive Apple product sales. And yet, regardless of their dissimilar motivations, both companies have not only concluded that digital advertising as we know it has got to change, they’ve both taken steps to make it so.
Let’s face it: the crackdown on intrusive advertising was long overdue, but without a crisis to hasten change, change would have come way too slowly. Now at least, change might serve to elevate and identify certain specific standards to which mobile advertising should be held.
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In the meantime, there are several advertising alternatives marketers and advertisers can use to communicate their messages nearly as effectively, and these represent real opportunities for innovation in the industry:
- Content marketing. When developed by professionals, content marketing can solve just about all the problems advertisers face. Not only does high-quality content educate consumers without being overtly promotional, it gives users exactly what they want—all for the small cost of a soft and subtle promotion.
- Click-bait. When headlines employ the curiosity gap technique correctly, the brain will do just about anything to satisfy its curiosity and fill the gap. Clicking into an ad-heavy page is a small price to pay to gain some small modicum of closure.
- Native advertising. Less altruistic than content marketing and even less dignified than click-bait, native ads are exactly what they appear to be: gratuitous, overt efforts to lure you into visiting an ad-riddled page that nonetheless lives up to its promises.
Times are certainly changing for mobile advertisers, but the entire digital advertising industry should heed the warnings implied by the actions of Google and Apple. Users simply cannot stand intrusive advertising, regardless of where it’s found. Google and Apple understand the sanctity of the user experience, and hopefully digital advertisers soon will, too.