Annual advertising

Kier's Mersey Gateway project as
featured in our 2015 annual report
It's been a particularly busy week for me at Kier as I have been responsible for the online publication of our annual report. As am I yet to be in the job for a year I'm still learning the key milestones and dates for our preliminary results, employee roadshows and reports. I've tried to improve on what has come before and instead of simply publishing a downloadable PDF I've created a bespoke highlights page which pulls out the key points and makes the contents much more readable and SEO friendly. I have big plans for next year too...!

This summer has definitely been my favourite for the last few years as being out of education has meant I didn't have to be forever present for Clearing and could holiday when I wanted! It also meant that I wasn't a slave to Google AdWords and the constant monitoring it has demanded in the past.

At Kier, we've primarily been concentrating on improving our organic reach and as we have historically not had a robust strategy for online, the content we are now seeding is working great. Our brand mentions, following and sentiment are all on a steady rise so until we start to see it plateau advertising in general is not in our strategy. We have the luxury of being one of the biggest names in the sectors in which we operate.

This got me thinking as to the future of paid advertising online. With it becoming increasingly easy to block adverts will we start to see a decline in the revenue it generates? In the past only the tech-savvy people would happily boast of their latest browser plug-in, host file or proxy that would make their browsing advert free. However, with public perception and legislation all now aware of online privacy, consumers are beginning to exercise their options. The app store now offers 'content blockers' which are easy to setup and make most ads disappear from the pages you visit with ease - Hooray!

But how should we feel about this? If someone approached me to advertise on this blog and I was comfortable with their product offer it would definitely be an incentive to post more regularly. However, I am definitely one of those people who gets annoyed with the same advert running before I watch any YouTube video!

On a basic level, without adverts certain apps and websites would not exist. It's how they make their money and by blocking the adverts you could be said to be essentially stealing the content. If I want to play 'Words with Friends' for example, it's reasonable to accept that the developer needs to find a way to monetise my using it. However, in this example the method, format and currency of exchange have been chosen for me.

Another type of consent is demonstrated by the ubiquitous 'we use cookies - opt in/out' warnings we get on most UK websites. Although ridiculous and annoying this highlights that there's no way you would have chosen to consent to the company now tracking, retargeting and sharing this data with others just by visiting their website. By carrying on the floodgates are open and the form the advertising now takes is basically that of someone shouting at you to try and distract you from what you're doing but hopefully in a targeted manner! Hence the increased popularity of ad blockers - advertisers push so we push back. In the end we'll either look somewhere else for our content or further develop our 'ad blindness'.

The main issue is that in my experience ad-serving sites/apps are targeting the users who are looking for only momentary distractions. The content they offer is not unique so the reader goes elsewhere to find what they want without a myriad of annoying popups. These sites are facing a crisis entirely of their own making as they defined their terms of engagement and value right from the start. I've already seen some more agressive tactics coming into play such as blocker-blocking and self-hosted ads.

Hopefully, I won't be diving back into that murky world in the immediate future...
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