Ad blocking: blunt, effective and difficult for digital marketers


There’s a new instrument in town, and according to Google ads boss Sridhar Ramaswamy, it’s a blunt (but effective) one. Ad blockers are all the rage, and the digital marketing industry is, of course, up in arms about it. Ad blocking, also known as ad filtering, has been around for a while but have become increasingly popular of late. New updates to some mobile software, such as the latest iOS 9 updates for iPhone and iPad have allowed them to get an even stronger foothold particularly coupled with their desktop counterparts.

Ad blocking removes, or sometimes alters, display advertising content on webpages. (Note that ad blocking currently does not work on most search advertising.) Some ad blocking software does this by targeting the technology used to serve the ads, such as Adobe Flash, JavaScript, audio files etc. Others target the source of the ads, such as particular URLs or HTML code. Typically ad blocking has been popularly received. Pages without ads will load faster and, of course, the tracking and profiling systems most ad delivery platforms use are obstructed when using ad blocking. The limitation most users cite? Relevant content is sometimes missed.

Typically, users install ad blocking software, sometimes a paid for option, after a particularly bad experience. Pernicious pop ups, ads without a visible close-out option, slow loading times and other such poor and invasive advertising techniques are ruining what was once an industry-standard practice. For ads to survive, more needs to be done to ensure that ad content is consistently high quality. Many ad blocking companies, including Adblock Plus, continue to work on ‘white lists’ or a laundry list of ad characteristics that would allow certain ads that meet the relevant specs to be shown.

Bygone are the good ol’ days of when flashy banners and moving ads created conversions. Now, good advertising is all about relevance. The more relevant you can be, the better the chance that you will:

    a) create a positive consumer experience that doesn’t lead to the installation of an ad blocker and
    b) connect with a potential customer.

See the point? Consumers want a good story. And, because they’re much more sophisticated consumers, they’ll probably also want it to be relevant – without it being intrusive.

How to stop being intrusive? Some companies are being up front, asking for permission to show ads. Still others are tweaking the forms in which their ads take, making them less intrusive whilst also getting around ad blockers.

And ad blocking shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. If you’re one of those who believe in content overload, ad blocking can be seen in a positive light: it provides limited impressions and tips the scale in favour of premium publishers who would never sacrifice good content for a click.

Ad blocking isn’t great news for digital marketers. But it should prompt us all to consider just how we’re using digital marketing, and how we can get better and giving consumers what they want. If they’re fatigued from ‘traditional’ methods, it is time for us all to innovate.

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