When Apple approved the creation and distribution of ad blocking applications in September, many in the digital marketing space though the sky was falling.
According to a recent report from PageFair, the use of ad blocking has grown 40% this year, resulting in nearly 200 million people using the technology. That will cost marketers -- according to PageFair -- about $22 billion.
If ad blocking represents short-term harm for ad networks, publishers, and app developers, what silver lining can be found for marketers in the long run?
What’s driving adoption of ad blockers?
While there are many factors driving the adoption of ad-blocking technology, there’s one that has led to increased mainstream ad-blocking installs: too much digital advertising is increasingly annoying and invasive.
However, there’s something important to remember: The awkward truth is that the type of advertising consumers are trying to block isn’t working anyway.
When advertisers learned that readers were ignoring some of their ads, they reacted by making those ads even more intrusive. One of the challenges: smaller publishers that rely most heavily on the ad exchanges and networks to sell their ad space don’t always think about the user experience impact advertising can have on their readers or users.
It’s time to rethink the digital ad experience
This reaction isn’t new -- the industry is already shifting to a model based more on performance and engagement than views or clicks.
To survive, publishers need to adapt to a new world where the quality of their user experience -- ads included -- is paramount.
Ads that are served through a mobile app experience, a subscription like The Information, pre-roll ads on YouTube, or native ads on Facebook aren’t usually affected by ad-blocking software.
In these native advertising environments, trusting consumer relationships and effective advertising campaigns can not only coexist, but produce better outcomes for publishers, marketers and consumers. Consumers who find what they want are likely to consume content behind a subscription wall or in a mobile app. Advertising can be tailored more specifically to each reader’s interests, made more relevant to the content they’re intending to consume.
The best advertising catches the consumer when they’re open to ads, adapts based on past behavior or profile, and demonstrates a connection to the content they are consuming.
Old-school mass media buying for scale no longer cuts it.
If you’re not getting feedback from consumers on your ads and not seeing measurable results, how do you know you’re not just turning your readers and/or customers off?
Publishers should extensively test to find advertising formats, targeting criteria, and timing that is least disruptive and most helpful to consumers, and you must be prepared to pivot and embrace a new approach if results don’t reach the bar. This is hard work, with few shortcuts. But, if they land on the right combination, publishers will be able to command a better price for their ad placements and drive more value for marketers.
Thankfully, the industry is moving to adopt standards and best practices for publishers and ad networks that will also make it easier on marketers to find the best partners. The Interactive Advertising Bureau just launched the L.E.A.N. Ads program, an industry-wide effort to create usability, security, and privacy standards for digital ads
What net impact of ad blocking do we see today?
For great marketers, almost none. In fact, the marketers that I talk to see little impact from ad blocking.
That’s because they focus on campaigns that drive performance and engagement rather than eyeballs. If you’re a marketer, and you’re worrying about ad blocking, identify and invest in campaigns that bring results in the form of actual consumer engagement.
If you’re a publisher, work on an elegant native advertising experience. If both sides are doing their part and making the results transparent to each other, they can optimize for ads that actually have the desired impact.
The more transparency our industry has, the fewer bad ads, and the more consumers are pleased with an advertising experience. Here’s hoping that the rise of ad-blockers causes us to do better, through real-time feedback, creativity, and an overall better ecosystem for all.