Marissa Mayer believes that better ads will stop people from ad blocking - she's wrong

Marissa Mayer was asked a question about ad blocking software's impact on the digital media business at a keynote session on Monday at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s conference in New York, during Advertising Week. She responded: "I really believe that commercials and ads make content better. The experience on the Web (without ads) becomes a lot less rich in my experience. I personally think it is a mistake." she elaborated on her thoughts stating: "The reason we have such tremendous resources is that we actually have ads that work. It is really important to keep that ecosystem vibrant. We need to make sure we have business models that work…I just think it makes the Internet better."

It makes the internet better because it supports the internet, in other words. But Ms. Mayer also understands consumers concerns about privacy, with the current tracking involved in so many systems. To remedy that she suggested that 'advertisers and publishers need to provide more transparency and more tools for people to opt out of targeting.' She did not address banner hijacks, but we remember that Yahoo ads were infected with malware for nearly a week before anyone noticed. Flashback to 2007 when we said "If the ad networks don't clean up now, anything that looks like ads will scare those once burned" and showed our readers the way to the nearest ad blocker.

Ms. Mayer believes that in the long term, Native Advertising, is the future. Of course, native ads are part of Ms. Mayer’s strategy aimed at turning around Yahoo’s core business, advertising makes up a third of Yahoo's revenue. Which is better than making unblockable ads; but I'm sure someone, somewhere is working on that right now.

Ms Mayer is ignoring a big problem with Native Ads, however. Ego. They are the battle of the brands. Created by the content producers, tailoring an ad to "fit" within the publications usual style and standard sounds attractive, as long as the FTC allows it, but this also means handing over the reins of creating the ad to the 'marketing wing' of said channel or publication. For example, the ad agency will brief a popular video channel on an idea they would like them to produce, and the video channel in turn will want to "brand" the sketch in a way that reinforces their own style of content, regardless of what the brief asked. I know of several instances where a popular channel has developed mediocre content, and plain refused to use the agencies scripts in a futile attempt to declare independence from dirty dirty commercial speech known as advertising, so in the end the agencies have revoked the native ad placement. Not every publishing house will be a good match for your brand, and not every publishing house will have any idea how to create an ad just because they can create comedy. Add to that, not every native ad creation will be as popular as the Will Ferrel shilling Old Milwaukee ads, nor will they be able to fly that far under the radar for long with the FTC now more proactive in ensuring that rules for branded, sponsored and native content are followed.

As Content Marketing Institute's Kirk Cheyfitz wrote in "Why Native Advertising Won’t Survive, Regardless of FTC Involvement", native advertising is but "a passing fad in the slow demise of traditional advertising." "Native" is not the long-sought replacement for dwindling ad revenue, despite how hopeful Buzzfeed are that they can tailor fun listicles to you when they see everything you do, how CNN and their advertorial arm believe they can support real journalism with sponsored journalism, and how Washington Post's opened up their "brand platform" for sponsored posts. Mr Cheyfitz nails the problem in these paragraphs:

Here’s what content marketing has demonstrated so far: Brand storytelling with rich content is powerful because audiences — the people formerly known merely as “consumers” — pay attention to valuable content and reward brand-authors by sharing such content with friends and strangers on social platforms. This social sharing increases impact (by two to four times, studies show) and reach (up to nine times, mathematical models show), reducing media spend and boosting efficiency (by as much as 100 times).


A story good enough to accomplish all that is actually rendered less effective (from the advertisers’ viewpoint) by appearing to be part of a publisher’s site. Brand-told stories work harder for a brand when they appear on neutral platforms (YouTube, for example) or sites owned by the advertiser.


Why? A brand must be known as the provider of such content so audiences will see the brand as trusted ally, valued adviser, and inventive entertainer. No sane brand would spend money to create great content only to let some publisher or broadcaster get the credit.

Like I said, ego gets in the way. The "branded content producing" departments within editorial companies and news organisations fight to brand both themselves and the client, leaving us with worse advertising, not better.