Commentary

Winning Over The Ad Blockers

A quick search of Google Trends, and it’s clear interest in ad blocking has reached an all-time high. According to a study by Retale, 20% of adults are now using an ad blocker on their mobile device. The industry is facing a challenge when it comes to convincing the blockers to embrace advertising.

To resolve the issue, the industry need to understand why users are implementing ad blockers. The main reasons usually cited by the industry are normally data consumption, load times and battery use. These are all valid, but when looked at closely, they don’t seem to be the main cause of ad blocking. Research by Global Web Index found that only one third of users state page load times are the reason for using an ad blocker, while just three in ten said battery life was the motive for installing the software.

The real key to the problem lies in irrelevant advertising. Poorly targeted ads annoy users, do not generate high revenues for publishers and waste brands’ advertising budgets. While most advertising online today employs some level of targeting, it tends to focus around building audience profiles. This is, without a doubt, a hugely important part of targeting, but it neglects a huge amount of data.

Implementing artificial intelligence (AI) could make this data work as hard as possible. It might seem like a buzzword, but AI has the potential to transform the way users are targeted. Machine learning technology assesses information received from billions of data points each time an ad request is logged. The system then implements predictive analysis in real time to determine which advertisement the user is most likely to engage with at that moment.

Should the user not engage, machine learning ensures the technology learns from the experience, and over time becomes more sophisticated, improving the likelihood of an engagement. As more users embrace connected devices, the influx of data will rapidly accelerate this process. By ensuring the most appropriate ad is served, it’s possible to dramatically improve campaign results.

On the publishers’ side of the industry, the likes of Forbes and the New York Times have experimented with preventing ad blocker users from accessing their content, while others like GQ are experimenting with micropayments. While these approaches may work for publishing giants, they are less likely to be effective across the publishing spectrum, and largely ignore the rather pointed message users are sending us.

If, as an industry, we can deliver hyper-targeted advertising through engaging formats like video, we will improve campaign results for brands and eCPMs for publishers. Once this trend is in place the market can begin phasing out advertising that is irrelevant and annoying, and focus on engaging ads that enhance the user experience. Better targeted advertising through data and AI—which benefits advertisers, publishers and users across the board—is what will win over the ad blockers.

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3 comments about "Winning Over The Ad Blockers".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, April 25, 2016 at 9:57 a.m.

    While I agree, in principle, that it would be nice to eliminate "irrelevant" ads, thereby easing the "burden" of digital users, this assumes that every advertiser wants to reach a specific and fairly narrow target audience and that such people can be identified primarily by electronic means. This is probably true---to some extent---for, say, sports car buyers, if one believes that all of those so inclined visit automotive sites and access their sports car pages. But is this true? Can all--or even most---people who might buy a given sports car be identified in this way? Are we sure that we won't be missing many buyers with such a "waste-free" approach? And what about toothpaste users or detergent users or diet soft drink fans? Do these advertisers want to target the narrowest possible constituencies----even if they can be defined?

    Another point---and the biggest one, in my humble opinion--- concerns the way ads come at you on many websites. It's a veritable barrage---a babble of conflicting and annoying sales pitches---which is annoying not so much because you aren't interested in every product or service but because of the barrage, itself, to say nothing of the fact that the ads pop up in your face or the page scrolls in a herky jerky mnner that is out of your control---or doesn't scroll when you want it to. Unless that is fixed you can have all the "relevant" ads you desire, with not a single "unwnated" ad to annoy you and users will still keep their ad blockers on.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 25, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.

    The worst part of the research by Global Web Index is that the number-one ranked response is double-barreled: "Too many ads are annoying or irrelevant" is improper wording. The survey needed to offer two responses instead of one, like "Ads are annoying" and "Ads are irrelevant" to avoid conflating the responses.  By combining them (a rookie mistake that makes me wonder if Global Web Index even knows how to conduct surveys), the results are more confusing, which leads trade press journalists to focus on the second barrel of the response (irrelevance) when the first barrel (annoyance) might be the real explanation.

  3. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct, April 25, 2016 at 4:58 p.m.

    There's a fundamental flaw in the theory of "Relevance" because relevance is in the eye of the beholder. Yet ALL of the ways that ads can be chosen involve marketers making presumptions of relevance on behalf of consumers.

    I am served thousands and thousands of "relevant" ads each week - most of which are as irrelevant as any other ads. As an ad guy, I can see the logic a marketer used to decide they must be relevant...and yet they aren't.

    But let's get real. Relevance is a mythology created to sell digital advertising options - because, well, effectiveness is so d..n low that they had to invent something they had that traditional media didn't. And, so, millions have been spent convincing marketers that relevance is a near-magical solution to all consumer dissatisfaction and ad performance.

    Yet when I have sat and listened to real consumers talk about advertising, they love surprise and that's what traditional advertising allows - for people to discover things that tickle their imagination and help them discover new things. And it's not just advertising. Tom Peters tweeted over the weekend that he went to Barnes & Noble and walked away with a set of books - books whose discovery was a pleasant surprise in ways that no book from an Amazon algorithm ever has.

    So let's get more honest:  Consumers want "relevance". But what THEY mean is not at all what we can deliver. It's a failure before it starts.