We sell ads, senator.” That was Mark Zuckerberg speaking at the US Senate way back in 2018, when Facebook as it was then known, was under scrutiny for a variety of issues; Zuckerberg was explaining how and why Facebook is free.
Cut to 2023, Zuckerberg’s public interactions have become memes, Facebook is still free while operating under the new conglomeration that is Meta, and they’re still running ads. A lot of ads.
Indeed, according to multiple sources, the vast majority of Meta’s earnings come from their ad business at a cool 113 billion USD in revenues in 2022, with Statista noting that in 2020, 97.9 per cent of Facebook’s earnings were from ads.
But as anyone who’s been on Meta’s flagship Facebook platform would have noticed, over the years, those ads have increased significantly in number and visibility, with pop-ups, banners, flash notifications and other ad formats dominating screens which were once home to song lyrics in various fonts, kitten videos, and the vaguely racist ramblings of distant relatives.
All that is still there of course, but it seems that there’s content between ads, rather than the other way around. And the same holds true for practically every social media site one might visit today.
“The increase in ad clutter, especially during and after Covid-19, has impacted ad performance. When there are too many ads competing for attention, it can lead to ad fatigue and reduced effectiveness. Consumers may become desensitized, resulting in lower engagement,” notes Anmol Dang, AVP Media, FCB/SIX India.
Sadhvi Dhawan, Group Media Director at Blink Digital, admits that in recent times, there has been a decline in completion rates for ads, particularly on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and other short video platforms.
“However, this decline is primarily observed when the offering or hook of the proposition in the ad takes time to build or the ad formats are disruptive in nature. Ads that seamlessly blend with the platform’s environment when speaking to customers in the desired language or begin with that which would immediately get their attention, like starting with RTB rather than the brand first, maintain their performance and do not compromise the overall user experience,” she says.
Ads that align with the content consumption habits of the audience have higher engagement rates and effectiveness, says Dhawan, adding that also, timing plays a significant role in ad success. Presenting ads at the right moment, especially during users’ times of need, increases the likelihood of a positive response.
Rammohan Sundaram, President – Integrated Media, DDB Mudra Group, believes there is an issue with user experience, to say the least. “However, we have to consider content and advertising together, with a classic case in point being Influencer marketing,” he says.
“Influencer marketing, when done right through genuine content creators, works wonders. However, I am specifically referring to content creators who are stars, not the other way around. For example, Aiyyo Shraddha delivers fantastic performances for some of the largest financial brands in the country,” elaborates Sundaram.
“How would you describe this approach? Content in between ads or the other way around? However, if you look at it, the creator has a great knack for crafting the script, which is then spun in a manner that resonates with her followers, resulting in a massive reach that social media hasto offer. If done right, there is no harm in this strategy,
“The key aspect of ad campaigns is the mind metrics, like Top-of-Mind Awareness (TOMA) and recall for products or services. We need to ensure our branding campaigns address these crucial questions. While we have immediate support with BLS, we must consider its reliability,” says Dang, adding, “Consumer engagement and ad effectiveness depend on factors like relevance, targeting, and customer experience. Regardless of the number of views or impressions, if ads don’t resonate with the audience, ROI may suffer.”
Dhawan points out that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have mastered the art of native advertising, seamlessly blending ads into their users’ feeds. This strategy allows ads to be consumed as content, without causing any negative impact on the user experience.
“However, this approach might not work as effectively for news portals, where the abrupt display of interstitial ads during reading can be frustrating for users. Therefore, personalized and targeted advertising is crucial in these contexts, enabling users to make informed decisions while maintaining a positive overall experience.