Browser extensions, plug-ins, toolbars, adware, pop-unders – no matter how they work or what they’re called, the emergence of publisher activity that interrupts a user’s customer journey is a cause of great debate but I’m convinced of the merits that such activity brings.
Whilst there is an ongoing problem across the pond in the US with toolbar activity misunderstood, mis-sold and generally just a bit shady, the UK market has embraced these publishers intelligently; ensuring that they add value and help contribute to the marketing mix rather than cannibalise it.
This is in no small part down to the IAB’s software guidelines which are summarised below:
Be distributed through intended download only from the publisher’s website
Application should not be bundled with other downloads and end user consent is required
Carry a clear unsubscribe option with easy removal
The user must interact by way of a click before any redirection takes place or a cookie is dropped
Make it clear which sales have come through cookies dropped by the application
Networks have played their part too, some have developed “soft cookies” ensuring that activity from downloadable software is unable to overwrite the cookies of existing affiliate traffic.
These guidelines ensure the industry remains professional but leaves enough room for innovation so that publishers can still be creative. Some of the most impressive innovation has come from Forward with their Invisible Hand technology allowing advertisers to compete on price whilst users visit its competitors. Leading incentive sites such as Nectar, Boots, quidco and TopCashBack have also offered great value adds with real time updates of new site offers, boosted search results for participating advertisers and the ability to tweet/facebook redeemed offers.
These well promoted downloadable software applications aren’t the only way that consumer’s journeys can be interrupted. Some publishers purchase exit traffic from other websites and serve adverts as users leave their site. Whilst alarm bells may ring as to the quality of such traffic, this method of promotion has been instrumental in the growth of some of today’s biggest daily deal sites. It proves to be very successful for advertisers intent on building up a brand presence quickly or those that have frequently changing offers (such as the daily deal sites as seen below.) It can also be utilised by advertisers who are quick to respond to news/seasonal events: If it’s a sunny day; serve ads for sun glasses or if there’s a heat wave in Barcelona; serve ads for cheap flights. It begs the question whether customers engage with such intrusive activity but the figures speak for themselves, especially when you consider that a user has to click on these ads to instigate network tracking.
These innovations highlight that what used to be grey marketing areas have (as a result of networks and the IAB) upped their game to offer advertisers new ways to promote their brand and reach audiences that their own marketing activity wouldn’t necessarily reach. Ultimately, any advertiser can benefit from intrusive advertising and the results to date strongly suggest that customers are engaging and purchasing rather than getting annoyed or frustrated.