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TV broadcasters should take responsibility for piracy and adland for ad blockers says Facebook’s head of agency

Neil Stewart

Neil Stewart at the Malaysia Media Conference

Television broadcasters must take some responsibility for the rise of piracy and Netflix-like online content providers since they pack their airwaves with too much advertising, one of Facebook’s top media executives has suggested.

Neil Stewart, APAC head of agency for Facebook, and former regional CEO of media agency Maxus, said at the Malaysian Media Conference in KL yesterday that the industry has got “a poor track record” of balancing commercial imperatives with what the consumer will tolerate, using India and Indonesia as examples of where ad breaks were too long, turning viewers to other channels, including pirated content sites to watch their favourite shows.

Stewart recounted how he’d told his audience at an ad event in India recently: “You guys are complaining about piracy and OTT [over-the-top services delivered on the web]. But you’ve brought it on yourselves.”

“A 90-minute Bollywood film should not take four hours to watch,” he said. “In most countries, you have enough time to make a cup of tea during the commercial break. In Indonesia, you could make a three-course meal.”

Stewart also said that digital marketing was being compromised by errant retargeting and bad mobile ads, and it was little wonder that ad blockers were on the rise.

Bad retargeting has created a lot of “waste”in the mobile environment, and consumers were paying for mobile internet connectivity that was slowed by loading adverts, Stewart said.

“Now wonder, then, that we’re seeing the rise and rise of ad blockers. Yes, you could argue that it’s a tech issue. But it’s not. It’s an industry issue.”

“We have a responsibility to change the way we do things to reflect the way things have changed over the last decade,” Stewart said, adding that his biggest frustration was ads that delivered irrelevant content.

“If you know who I am, why are you sending me these ads?” he said, referring to ads targeted at him promoting a hotel he was already staying in.

The general standard of mobile ad creative was not helping to dissuade people from installing ad blockers, Stewart suggested.

He referred to an opinion piece by Mumbrella’s Australian site editor Alex Hayes that asked why mobile ads were “so shit still” given the increasing importance of the medium for marketers.

“No longer can you resize a banner and put it on mobile. It’s not acceptable, and it won’t work,” said Stewart, who was Asia marketing director for Motorola before joining Maxus, and began his career as a suit at ad agency Ogilvy.

He pointed to new technology such as 3D cameras, which he predicted would be the “big tech must-have” among teenagers over the next six to nine months, as an opportunity to beat ad blockers simply by giving people more interesting content.

“If the ads were great and entertaining, no one would block them,” Stewart said.

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