Have you heard of Adblock Plus? With over 300 million downloads it is THE most popular browser extension in the WORLD.
Browser extensions are add-on features for your web browser. You might use Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to browse the Internet. Extensions are kind of like apps on a smartphone; They enhance the basic functionality of the web browser.
There are all different types of extensions. One might provide alerts and reminders about your schedule. One might make it easier to translate web pages into different languages. Adblock Plus gets rid of almost every ad on the Internet.
The developers’ goal is to stymie intrusive, annoying ads. Stuff like pop ups, or flashing banners, or those “YOU JUST WON A MILLION DOLLARS!” ads. The trouble is that legitimate, sensible, tasteful ads also get blocked. The program’s default setting eliminates all ads, though users can ‘whitelist’ sites in the options if they want ads to show up.
Setting the ethical and financial implications of Adblock Plus aside – many websites operate based on ad revenue – it’s something that marketers need to be aware of. Being the most popular extension in the world indicates that a lot of people want traditional advertising out of their Internet experience.
Adblock Plus’s success is an indictment of those traditional ads which scream “Buy this buy this buy this!!” This isn’t to say that traditional ads are somehow “bad” or ineffective, but… if you could watch TV without commercials, you probably would, right? When commercials come on we surf channels or we grab a drink. We’ve seen big companies reacting to this propensity for a long time. TiVo lets you fast forward through ads. Netflix has no ads in its content library. These companies are setting a new standard for how we think about advertising.
Adblock Plus should get us to think creatively about our marketing. How can we capture attention in a way that avoids the pitfalls of traditional ads?
These days, people want content. Why be the commercial when you could be the TV show?
Adblock Plus doesn’t block blogs, or Facebook feeds, or videos (and so on) because that’s the content people are looking for. Marketers must find ways to leverage these online spaces with content. They need to sell by not selling.
The Automatic Thank You Machine
A fantastic recent example is TD Bank’s “Automatic Thank You Machine”. Their video earned over 15 million views on YouTube and garnered a lot of mainstream media coverage.*
TD Bank told an emotional story that resonated with an audience. The video has the function of an ad without the auspices or context of one. It’s something you want to tell people about: “Did you hear about that thing TD Bank did?”
What you’ll note about the video above is that there’s no call to action. This is blasphemous even for a content marketer, but it sends a strong message. The content says, “this is how we treat our customers,” and the inference made by the viewer is, “hey, maybe I should be a TD Bank customer”. They aren’t telling viewers to open an account, they aren’t talking about their new low rates. They’re making an appeal to emotions, not an appeal to wallets.
Customers will want to look up the info themselves as they develop an idea of the brand through content. Content is like an appetizer to the product (whereas a traditional ad just serves up the product).
Content on your website can have the same impact. if you position your institution as THE resource to help people save money and avoid mistakes you’ll be able to overcome the idea that ads are annoying.
*This content was in fact cut into TV spots, but it found its audience online. A four minute long TV commercial would be insane! News stations covered it because of its virality. Think about it this way: Even ads in traditional channels should be looked at as potential content and vice versa.