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What the Net Neutrality Ruling Could Mean for Advertising

Advertising Agency
Chicago, USA
INFLUENCER: DDB Chicago's Azher Ahmed on the 'death' of open Internet and what it could mean for your marketing strategies

Following the FCC's repealing of net neutrality, brands and advertisers are left questioning the consequences to their business models.

The 'information superhighway' is an analogy often used to describe the Internet, and advertisers could probably find answers by looking at actual highways. The outdoor advertising model has many analogues we can extend to the potential future state of digital advertising.

City roads tend to have traffic, and outdoor ads are plentiful and even mock the slowness of bumper to bumper congestion. Freeways, in contrast, deal with faster-moving traffic and billboards are farther spaced, except in areas prone to congestion. And then there are tollways, which probably deal with reduced traffic at the expense of more premium placements.

What does this mean for digital ads?

In a world where consumers travel at varying speeds and frustration levels, advertisers need to be aware of the context in which their ads are being served.

A low-bandwidth consumer, for example, probably doesn’t want to wait for your ad to load that perfect animation. The quest for creative perfection can end up carrying numerous negative side effects on how your brand is perceived.

In contrast, a fibre-connected consumer on the fast lane may be able to opt out of advertising entirely. This scenario could make brands struggle with ways to intersect affluent users, for example, in meaningful ways beyond a purely opt-in based method like e-mail or a like/follow.

If the 'level playing field' of Internet bandwidth were eradicated, it would force advertisers to consider new levels of nuance in their marketing strategies. We’re no longer concerned with simply reaching the “right person, right place, right time,” but also needed to be aware of and respect their load time in ways similar to the early days of the Internet.

Remember Flash preloaders? They became wonderful instruments for agencies to win creative awards at the expense of making consumers wait for minutes (!) while a brand website loaded.

Imagine situations like that, compounded by varying degrees of load time based on socio-economic factors, and you’ve got an entirely new dimension to consider in your enterprise marketing approach.