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Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: The Internet isn’t free, and was never meant to be. But that way of thinking in the early days of digital is what empowered companies to offer their content for free–while scraping the data they collected to sell advertising. That led to the dubious practices that have brought two major rounds of regulation on the digital world’s head. 

It’s simple: publishers need to secure value for the content they provide, and that’s best done through a value exchange with the consumer: either the consumer pays for premium access, or accepts advertising. We know bad habits take a long time to break, but the best way to do so is by giving consumers that educated choice. 

The trick is to concentrate on those consumers who are more receptive to your ad. Once you find them, offer them the choice of which ads they would prefer to see, based on their preferences. The benefit for the brand is that they’re more likely to recall the brand after the experience and may even engage on a deeper level, since they made a choice. And it’s even more cost-effective: instead of paying for 1,000 eyeballs–only few of which care or register–the brand pays for 100 eyeballs, most of which are engaged and receptive.

The best end result of explaining and then offering consumers choice in their digital ad experience is trust. Just as Uber did quite successfully (who would have ever thought of getting into a complete stranger’s car for a ride somewhere before Uber came along?), cultivating trust among your user base means they’re far more likely to come back for more. 

Free is a powerful word in many corners of marketing. But it did more damage than good when it came to the early days of digital. Today it’s all about freedom of choice. Those who offer that to their consumers will reap the benefits.

To read more you can visit my Forbes article.

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