Why Google’s ‘Mute This Ad’ Is Part Of A Broader Trend We All Need To Be Focused On

January 31, 2018

Google’s Mute This Ad feature had its fair share of news over the recent week. And while it’s certainly caught our attention, we do not expect it to impact retargeting programs significantly.

What the new feature underscores, much like other similar efforts of its kind, is the industry’s trend towards giving consumers the ability to take more control over their ad experiences – an opportunity they’ve actually had for quite some time through AdChoices. But rather than fear the short term outcomes of Mute This Ad, let’s focus on what this continuing trend really means for our future, and for the meaningful experiences we work to create for our customers.

So, What Is Mute This Ad, And How Does It Work?

According to Google, the “Mute This Ad” feature: “Provides users with the ability to control the ads they see and signal which ads aren’t interesting to them.”

The feature addresses “reminder ads” more specifically – what we know as remarketing, and what consumers know as, “those annoying ads that follow me around the internet.”

The feature has been around since 2012, but it’s since been expanded to work across devices, and inside any app or website that partners with Google. Its core impact will be felt on the Google Display Network, but Google also indicated that the settings will become available to consumers across YouTube, Search and Gmail over the coming months. Users will be able to mute an ad by tapping the “x” displayed on the ad, or by clicking “Stop seeing this ad” that may appear in a drop-down menu or as a button. Important to note, if a user mutes an ad from a brand.com website domain, they can also be muting ads from specific pages within that brand.com site.

The Short-Term Impact To Remarketing

There’s no getting around that remarketing drives the eCommerce performance of a tremendous number of brands, advertisers and publishers. Any limitations placed on marketers’ ability to remarket poses new risks to their business’s ad models.

That potential impact is only heightened when it’s Google driving the change, with the sheer number of sites that partner with Google’s Display Network. And given the cross-device element, it would seem to indicate a fairly large attack on Remarketing as we know it today.

But, similar to the response we saw when Apple rolled out Intelligent Tracking Prevention, we don’t expect the impact of these new features to be quick, nor widespread. Why? The reality is that there are already several ways for consumers to avoid ads. And this new Mute option requires consumers to take the same steps they’d need to take advantage of their current ad blocking opportunities – steps that they, overwhelmingly, do not take. Simply because another mechanism to do so has been offered, does not mean that all will jump at the opportunity. The use of ad blocking apps and widgets are a far more commonly exercised option, and should be a bigger concern.

Why We Need To Ultimately See This As A Good Thing

Off the heels of Facebook’s drastic newsfeed change announcement, and a few months earlier, Apple’s iOS update, Mute This Ad could feel like another similarly disruptive change to our everyday lives in advertising.

But here’s the other reality that we – smart marketers – know. Features like Mute This Ad and ITP, and even the more radical changes being made to customer experiences on Facebook, all speak to a broader, increasingly prevalent fact that we’ve known for some time: Consumers are in control. They have more say over their digital experiences than ever before, which means we face the challenge (and the opportunity) to be achieving significantly more relevance when we engage them in our brands and products.

And, at the end of the day, if consumers already uninterested in our brands’ products are opting out of viewing them, we can now shift the focus to consumers who are interested – therefore, not wasting impressions and not running the risk of alienating the people we want to reach in the process. This all validates “right time, right place, right message, right customer”, and should encourage us to focus more on what’s personal and relevant to the right individual.

The Reality That We All Need To Start Planning For

We need to prepare for a future where consumers have even more control than they do today, and where we, as an industry, are holding ourselves accountable to higher standards for excellence in ad experiences. Mute This Ad is a small blip in the longer journey we are on to win the hearts and minds of consumers, and to provide them the experiences they truly want from their favorite brands.

We will continue to watch the impact and adoption of Mute This Ad – stay tuned for updates!

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