How Consumers Can Help Brands Overcome Ad Blocking

In 2006, I worked for the CMO of American Express. One day, to an assembled group of marketing team members, he said, “The advertising and marketing industry is at a crossroads. We know that we are spending more money on our ads than before yet our audience reach is dropping significantly because people can skip past our ads.” 

What he was referring to was the rapid adoption of DVRs in the U.S. and consumer shift to recording programs and simply fast-forwarding through the advertisements. But given the advent of newer ad-blocking technology, he might as well have been making these comments today. 

Mega influencer PewDiePie, who is 26 years old and has close to 48 million followers on YouTube alone, said recently that almost 30% of his followers already utilize ad-blocking technology. According eMarketer, 25% of internet users will block ads this year. Combine ad-blocking technology with the decline in effectiveness of digital ad units and a few other stats and the picture is clear. According to Hubspot:

  • 54% of users don’t click banner ads because they don’t trust them. 
  • 33% of internet users find display ads completely intolerable.
  • 50% of clicks on mobile ads are accidental.



It’s no wonder that advertisers are seeking new ways to build awareness and engage with their consumers.

Back to that 2006 meeting with Amex’s CMO, he went on to say, “Yes, consumers’ ability to skip our ads is a problem but, we have a tremendous asset. We have millions of customers and we know that when they have a great experience with us, they are likely to tell their friends and family. The conversion rate of these friends and family members to become Amex customers upon hearing these recommendations from someone they trust is our strongest channel. It’s better than direct marketing or any other form of advertising at our disposal. After all, 91% of consumers say that they trust recommendations from friends, family members and people they know.”

He then posed a question, “How do we capture the spirit of these recommendations from friends and family and deliver them at scale?” 

Ten years ago, that was a bigger challenge than it is now. Today, over 2.1 billion people have social media accounts. Many of them have built strong followings with thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of people who “tune in” to follow ideas, content and advice.

There are quite a few ways for advertisers to tap into the power of social media and social influencers. For example, product reviews are a great way to drive interest and purchase intent. Consumers trust product reviews. According to Bazaarvoice, just 50 reviews can give a sales lift of 30% for CPG brands on ecommerce sites.

Advertisers interested in tapping into the power of consumer conversations in order to build awareness and engagement should consider several factors, but here are three key tips:

1. Target the Right Consumers Advertisers must first ensure that they are engaging the right social media influencers and their associated audiences.

2. Allow Authentic Creation of Thoughts and Content Consumers must be allowed to create stories that are real and benefit driven, i.e., how the product or service makes their life better, more friction free, etc.

3. Maximize Use of Consumer Content Once content and stories are created, advertisers should think about how to utilize this content beyond one post or review. Consumer content can be used on a brand’s social channels and through paid distribution as well.

Advertisers can reap significant value from consumers genuinely interested in talking about their products and services. These “conversations” have the potential to be more valuable than ever before because they are not ads and therefore are not “blocked.”

1 comment about "How Consumers Can Help Brands Overcome Ad Blocking".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 13, 2016 at 9:09 a.m.

    Aliza, these are interesting and perfectly valid ideas, however they are not a substitute for a well thought out and sustained adverising campaign but, rather, a nice way to compliment it. To have an effective campaign you must gain and maintain reach and tell a sequence of stories tied into your basic selling proposition. It doesn't matter if 30% or more of your digital "audience" never sees your ads so long as these people see your message elsewhere. In like manner, it isn't a make or break problem if a fair number of people miss your TV or magazine ads ---or rarely see them---if they are reached digitally. In this context, getting some consumers "involved" as you suggest, is always useful and it may even provide an element of synergy between the various platforms, but it's never going to affect the great mass of consumers who may buy your product or use your service. Too many people simply wont bother to get that involved.

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