Currently, one in 10 people block ads in the U.S. Those 34 and younger are more likely to block ads than their older peers, and those with higher economic status are more likely to utilize this technology. Basically, millennials with money are more likely to block your ads—just what every brand wants to hear!
While this may be surprising to some, as a media planner with a digital background, I think this is great news. This technology is going to force our industry to think long and hard about the consumer. Blasting consumers with irrelevant banner ads is a thing of the past. In today’s ad blocking world, the only way for a brand to truly connect with a consumer is to create compelling content and brand experiences. We need personalized messages on personal devices, the consumer actually wants.
Pop up and banner ads vs. native content
Some of my favorite blogs are consciously redesigning their sites in order to remove banner ads. One blogger (bakedbree.com), still does sponsored posts, but noted: “I removed all of the ads on this site. I use this site a lot ... and coming to my own website was frustrating. Ads would pop up, auto play, or were just plain distracting.”
So, will brands and bloggers be able to communicate with target consumers on blogs and certain websites moving forward? Yes, via native content.
Native content is a true win-win-win. The reader is more likely to pay attention and can enjoy a less cluttered experience on the site, the brand is able to promote itself and get in front of consumers in more appealing ways, and the blogger still makes money. The same holds true for online publications. I am more likely to read a sponsored article on Buzzfeed or on Boston.com than a banner ad.
A different ad experience on mobile
Although ad blocking has been rolled out across browsers, it is not being used as much across mobile applications, where there is less room for ad clutter. Most in-app ad blockers don’t even work, since many applications serve ads without the use of tagging or ad servers. Brands have an opportunity to connect with their audiences in less disruptive ways than other channels.
Take Pandora, which is accessed by the majority of its users on a mobile device. The platform only serves up one ad at a time and limits commercial “breaks” to just one ad. Additionally, Pandora has come up with its own creative ad product that serves the consumer the choice of ad-free listening in exchange for their attention and time. The sponsored listening product asks users if they would like to listen to one ad in exchange for one hour of ad-free listening. This creates a great user experience and still enables brands to advertise without overloading a user with banners.
In addition to native and mobile products, there are certain paid ads that the user chooses to seek out, ensuring a higher level of attention and engagement.
Coke Zero recently launched a campaign that calls on millennials to engage directly with the brand through experiential creative. The company claims that half of those who try Coke Zero are likely to continue purchasing the product at least once a month. With that goal in mind, Coca-Cola created a television ad that could be “Shazamed.”
The viewer is prompted to watch a glass fill up from a Coke Zero bottle in the Shazam app, then is presented with a mobile coupon for a free Coke Zero bottle. This “drinkable” advertising also appeared as an interactive billboard at last year’s NCAA Final Four competition in Indianapolis, where a giant “straw” extended from the billboard to a Coca-Cola sampling station below.
Despite the hype surrounding current ad-blocking capabilities, there are ways to reach your qualified audience through paid media. And while this may be a change for some advertisers accustomed to banner ads, native, mobile and experiential vehicles allow brands to connect with their audiences in a more authentic and less disruptive setting.
Ad-blocking technology is actually helping the digital landscape by encouraging advertisers to create content or experiences that consumers choose to engage with —a better situation for both parties.