By 2017, it is predicted that a third of Internet users will be using some form of ad blockers. The problem is no longer coming; it is already here. And while ad blocking may have started on desktop, the real battle will happen on mobile as 22% of the world’s smartphone owners are now using ad blockers. The masses are revolting against intrusive ad formats and consumers are growing more accustomed to embracing advertising blindness.
Consumers no longer look to advertising, but now look to each other. They rely on feedback, consumer opinions and a shared sense of “looking out for your fellow buyer” as guideposts in decision-making. We see this in the massively disruptive sharing economy and it will no doubt shake the status quo of the advertising industry.
This rise in ad blocking should signal to marketers that traditional ad units collecting impressions might no longer achieve the same scale in the near future. Scale might be only available by the mom, student, millennial, teacher, or sports enthusiast sharing their story. Seventy percent of consumers want to learn about products through content as opposed to traditional ad methods. For a visionary marketer, this is an opportunity. Consumer advocacy is a distribution channel that is far more authentic and will garner better results for less work. Word-of-mouth consistently dominates as one of the biggest drivers in generating sales. Not to mention that those customers acquired by word-of-mouth have a 37% higher retention rate.
Brands that start their advocacy and influencer marketing strategy today will be far better equipped to handle a world of ad-blocking customers. Here are three things you can do today to prepare for the shift.
1. Brand messaging must be about sparking stories.
In traditional advertising, marketers use ad space to make their brand the star of the show. Word-of-mouth is told through the consumer’s perspective. Your job as a marketer is to make sure your brand plays a role, but it is not the lead. Brands must embrace playing the supporting actor if they want their influencer and advocacy marketing to be effective. Consider it real-life product placement. Your new job as a marketer is to ignite conversation through sharable experiences.
2. Remember you’re dealing with people, not ad units.
One of the challenges of influencer and advocacy marketing is that content, reach and engagement cannot be determined by machine-based algorithms and complex bidding systems. Success is determined by the relationships you have with influencers and advocates and the value exchange you present. Marketers will need to focus on maintaining balance to ensure credibility. Marketers and consumers must become partners.
3. Make advocacy and influencer marketing coincide with your media pulses to enhance investments.
Word-of-mouth via influencers and advocates should be viewed as a wonderful distribution channel. These powerful voices can provide evergreen content via reviews and testimonials throughout the year, but they can also be activated at key times to help push sales and awareness. Plan activation pulses as you would media buys to help amplify your media investments and bring your well-planned advertising strategies to life through real consumers.
In 2016, 69.8 million Americans will use an ad blocker, and that figure will grow another 24.0% to 86.6 million people next year. The consumer voice is one of the most powerful players in marketing and social media platforms acts as a way to hedge against more discerning and disappearing eyeballs.