Unless you've been asleep for the last six months, you're well aware there's been a lot of hand wringing in advertising circles over the seemingly sudden increase in use of ad blockers. Chiefly, that increased attention came from Apple's allowance of mobile ad blockers in Safari, but ad blocking in general has been on the rise for quite some time.
It's a forgone conclusion that marketers and their advertising agencies, much like a determined athlete, will find a way around or through ad blockers despite increasingly insurmountable odds. Publishers, of course, will join this fight -- since advertising revenue is their lifeblood ever since the Internet made free everything commonplace.
Luckily, advertising isn't the only thing that makes the marketing world go round. Remember public relations? Yup. And while public relations (or, as today's buzzword dictionary would have it, earned media) won't necessarily solve a starving publisher's problems, it will help get a marketer's word out to market by circumventing ad blockers.
So too will content marketing and native advertising (which will help publishers stay afloat). Writing in an Advertising Age article entitled "The Solution to Ad Blocking Is to Double-Down on Earned Media," Edelman Chief Content Strategist Steve Rubel wrote: "We may look back on this time as the beginning of the great era of earned media."
As an example of that potential new era, Rubel points to the effect that time-shifted viewing had on certain ad models, writing: "This is what happened ten years ago in TV when TiVo and DVRs encouraged widespread ad-skipping. This arguably helped give rise to subscription services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime -- which ushered in binge-watching. And it also created a robust market for branded entertainment and product placement. Both of which are thriving today."
Regarding the potential rise of content marketing and native advertising, Metia Managing Director Mark Pinsent wrote: "As ad blocking technology's use increases and becomes more sophisticated, more companies are going to be looking at alternative ways of getting their messages to the audience. I fully expect this to result in an increased focus on marketing through content that has genuine use to the audience, and delivering it to people in a highly-targeted way. People say that they don't like being marketed to. I don't believe that (which kinda comes with the territory!) What people don't like is bad marketing: irrelevant, low-quality, poorly-targeted, overly interruptive."
Will content marketing and native advertising save the day? Well, if the number of attendees at Content Marketing World and Hubspot's Inbound conferences in September are any indication, there sure are a hell of a lot of people looking to learn how to deploy non-advertising-style advertising for the brands they represent.
There are, of course, other ad-blocker free roads marketers can travel, much of which wend their way through social media properties like Facebook's Instant Articles, Instagram's in-stream advertising, Twitter's Promoted post, Snapchat ads and more. Whether are not those channels are capable of filling in the gap left by ad blocked online media -- not to mention the waning effectiveness of TV advertising -- is a wait-and-see game.
It's quite clear, however, that the challenge ad blockers will foist upon advertisers and publishers will far outstrip those posed by banner blindness.