Ad blocking technology that allows web users to automatically filter out digital advertisements is growing rapidly in popularity around the world. And if you’re not careful about where and how you place your ads, you could be the one getting blocked out of your target audience’s online experience.
It’s easy to understand why consumers might find ad blocking attractive. We’ve all encountered obnoxious pop-ups, banner ads that automatically play uninvited audio, and malicious ads that promote scams or carry viruses. For some, ads are seen only as an inconvenient obstacle standing in between them and the content they want now, like an unsinkable ad in front of a YouTube video. And others are simply tired of what they perceive to be an unending torrent of corporate messaging, or are uncomfortable with how their personal data is used for targeting and personalization.
There is plenty of discussion to be had on the ethics of ad-blocking—after all, ads are how many websites and publishers are able to provide value to their viewers without charging an entry fee or subscription. But as far as marketers are concerned, that discussion is largely irrelevant. The harsh truth is: people are going to use ad blocking technology even if it could potentially harm content creators. And it’s not only here to stay–it’s growing quickly in popularity.
Image from PageFair
Ad blocking growth isn’t likely to slow down any time soon, and that has meaningful consequences for big-picture marketing strategies. It means that consumers will increasingly be more difficult to reach through popular digital channels like paid search, display ads and rich media prerolls. Even worse, you could even end up footing the bill for false impressions that never even see your ads.
And while ad blocking on mobile is not a huge trend yet, you can expect it to soon follow the way of desktop ad blocking, eventually interfering with your messages both on mobile browsers and even within apps. This will only become more of a problem as a greater portion of online traffic moves to mobile devices.
All told, ad blocking is projected to cost the industry $22 billion this year alone. Without taking the right steps, CMOs could be pouring their digital advertising budgets down the drain.
Is it time to panic and pull out of digital media buying? Of course not. Much like television advertising remains effective even after the rise of DVR technology and on-demand video streaming, online advertising will remain an effective tool for any marketing strategy for years to come. But to keep ROI from stagnating or shrinking, advertising executives will need to innovate new ways to ensure their investments are paying off.
Make Good Ads, and Put Them on Reputable Sites
In many ways, the advertising industry “dug its own grave” when it comes to online ads. It’s no wonder consumers are drawn to the idea of ad blocking after enduring years of obnoxious, disruptive advertising tactics: spam, clickbait, popups, automatically-played multimedia content, misleading copy, malware and more. If your ads are more of a nuisance than a relevant and valuable message, then you should expect them to be aggressively blocked.
To counter this, advertisers as a whole must get better at providing messages that are interesting, entertaining, informative, and most importantly, personally relevant and immediately valuable. That’s easier said than done of course, and requires a joint effort between talented creative advertising staffing, data-empowered analytics experts, and the guidance of a talented advertising executive.
Creating good, unobstructive ads is even actively rewarded by some ad blockers. For instance, AdBlock Plus, one of the most popular blocking apps, allows what it calls “Acceptable Ads” by default in an attempt to encourage unobtrusive advertising and provide at least some revenue for publishers. According to the site, 75% of users are fine with such ads. Following the guidelines for what these apps decide is “acceptable” might seem restrictive to your advertising staffing, but it could improve viewability and engagement with blockers.
Another way to minimize the effect of ad blocking is to purchase space primarily on highly-reputable sites that are well-liked by their users and are frequently “unblocked.” Most ad blockers offer a “whitelist” option to users that will allow ads on certain domains or pages that they trust or want to view ads on.
For instance, a user might permit adds on YouTube so they can support both the free streaming service in general and their favorite channels in particular. Popular bloggers, streamers, niche news sites and the like with dedicated fanbases will often have high whitelist rates, and higher ad viewability by extension.
Place Your Ads on Unblockable Channels
Another alternative to getting around ad blockers is to put your digital advertisements in places where they can’t be detected and removed by ad blocking software. Ad blockers work by detecting certain characteristics of the advertisements on pages and filtering them out. But if your digital advertising staffing can find ways to better integrate their ads with web content, it’s almost impossible for them to be removed. Some examples:
- Native advertising: Ads that are published on a site in the same format as normal content are impossible for most ad blockers to detect. Effective native advertising staffing can create content that’s almost indistinguishable from a site’s normal images, blogs, videos and more and pay publishers to place it on their pages.
- Branded multimedia content: Instead of having your media staffing buy ad slots on pages, you can instead buy or create a spot for your ads in images, video, podcasts and more. For instance, an ad blocker might be able to filter out a banner ad off of a YouTube page. But if that image is placed directly in bottom of the video file itself, there’s no way to remove it.
- Influencer marketing: Web influencers offer another platform for your advertisements that can’t be blocked. Paying a popular influencer to publish your ads through their social channels or read them in their podcasts and videos offers a way to ensure your target audience is exposed to your messages without it getting wiped away by a blocker. This often requires a strong core of influencer marketing staffing to build valuable relationships and have them present your ads in a mutually agreeable way that’s valuable to their audience.