To block or not to block

By Teamspirit on Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Just before Christmas Firefox launched Focus, a new mobile content blocker that combines ad and tracking blocking. This new service, and an increasing number like it, will impact not just on the ad serving process, but on consumer metrics gathering too.

UBS predicts that the cost of mobile ad blocking in the US will hit $1billion for 2015, though this pales in comparison to Adobe and PageFair’s calculation that $22billion was lost to desktop ad blocking last year.

This issue is only going to become more important in 2016, as companies look to squeeze the most from desktop and more players enter the mobile market.

There are two sides to ad blocking.
On one side, some companies champion – or at least allow – it. Apple released a content blocking API for mobile and desktop in summer, and easily integrated extensions like AdBlock are key selling points for browsers like Google Chrome.

On the other side, the Washington Post, Hulu and Channel 4 block web content from users with active ad blockers, and Yahoo have even recently tested not letting people access their emails if they have an ad blocker running on their browser.

In the middle, sites like the Guardian and the Atlantic detect ad blockers, but instead of restricting access they ask users to donate to their site. This makes crystal clear the link between advertising and revenue, and mirrors the ad-free premium services that have seen traction for disruptors like Netflix and Spotify.

But an ad-free world, whether through extensions or donations, isn’t great for advertisers, brands or, most importantly, consumers.

So, what can advertisers and marketers do to make sure their messages reach the people who should see them?

We think the answer is pretty simple – create messages worth seeing.

Adtech, programmatic and intelligent media buying are crucial for putting your message in front of the right people at the right time. But what you show them still needs to move them to action – to click, call or buy.

Investing in relevant, insightful and entertaining branded content is an increasingly popular way of doing this, particularly because it can’t – yet – be blocked. But just as important is taking the time to truly understand what your audience wants and show them how you can give them it in a way that grabs their attention.

Brands like Conde Nast – who spend a lot on advertising – have found that serving fewer, higher-impact ads result in much higher click through rates compared to their previous strategies of more, smaller and lower quality ads.

We recently used an ad blocker to tot up how many ads get served on various websites. One homepage had thirty-nine. In that kind of environment your ad really needs to stand out, and for the right reasons.

In today’s busy market, quantity can be a budgetary and strategic choice, but none of us can afford to scrimp on quality.

P.S. We think everyone should try using an ad blocker for a day to see what your customers are and aren’t seeing online – it might just change the way you think about how you engage with them.

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