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Ad-blockers revisited: has the industry regrouped yet?

It has been a while now since ad-blocking software and applications progressively gained traction from those who want to browse the Internet ad-free.

Seems like the advertising industry did not come up yet with any revolutionary, innovative replies. Most of the websites which saw their advertising revenue threatened reacted by politely asking their viewers (via floating panels) to understand the importance of allowing ads into their feeds, while the most authoritative reactions refused to let users with active ad-blockers access their materials. Therefore the general stance was one of holding the previous positions, in the hope that this ad-blocking mania would ultimately go away.

Mobile advertising at risk

A recent study painted a different picture: over 20 percent smartphone users employ ad-blockers. The curb went upwards in-between January 2015 and January 2016 by 90 percent – a situation that makes advertising companies feel threatened.

The study authors, Priori Data and Pagefair, act as an active factor that helps companies understand and integrate ad-blockers for 3 years now, besides reporting the field facts. To this purpose, they warned that carriers could follow the example of Digicel and employ ad-blocking technology, contributing even more to the up-scaling of this phenomenon.

In Pagefair’s view the browsers that allow or opt-in for software that blocks ads are the major current factor in spreading this trend and its consequences. Subsequently the advertising industry faces a huge problem, and has to adapt of die. However, it seems that adapting is not on the roll so far, since the reactions are still only in the resistance spectrum.

The industry leaders responded to the 2016 Mobile Adblocking Report, acknowledging this issue’s impact. The phenomenon is clearly shifting to mobile devices instead of going away, and users adopt ad-blockers on technical or convenience reasons, aiming to reduce battery consumption or to simply browse their favorite sites un-hindered by ads.

The report findings triggered quite a few reactions in the online media, since it pushed back denial and forced professionals to reconsider the ad-blockers’ aftermath.

What would be the proactive options?

Since introducing forceful methods to make users accept advertising and renounce their ad-blocker systems is not perceived as friendly or efficient, and taking the matter to court already happened in Europe and proved unsuccessful for the advertising companies, other methods involve meeting the users’ basic wishes in a way that would render ad-blockers pointless.

For example, “fewer and simpler” ads take up less bandwidth and do not alienate mobile users.

Native advertising would be another option, which requires quite a shift from inside the marketing team, but ultimately may deliver complex and innovative campaigns, more likely to be noticed and accepted by the target audience.

Advocacy marketing re-routes the way advertising reaches customers and may just take the digital route that has nothing to do with ad-blockers. It also comes with a different impact and is perceived differently compared to standard ads, as it usually involves more details and personalization, as well as brands working together with marketers in finding the right message or the most suited brand advocates, as well as in maintaining and cultivating such relationships.

The PageFair study also led to a couple of closed-door meetings that reunited “publishers, advertisers, ad agencies, industry associations, browsers and privacy interests” and produced specific recommendations:

  • Companies should allow users to express their complaints concerning advertising via different, less extreme tools that would act as feedback loops;
  • Publishers should agree to restore a small number of premium ads on blocked sites, offering an ad-light experience;
  • Publishers and advertisers should also consider and respect a maximum pageload time standard, as is the case with Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Alternative means of tracking third-party elements and get value from online readers can be employed,

such as pay-per-view pages or a form of exchanging data for free access (methods already employed by Epicurious and GQ).

When a user, which usually employs ad-blockers, disables its plugin in order to be able to view the content from a page, there is implied value in that content. Buyers become more value-oriented because of ad-blockers, a thing that can prove beneficial for advertisers and their clients. In other words, the rules of the game are changing, but the players have the means to face this shift ad emerge even more powerful.

As other sources mentioned, the fact that previously to the ad-blockers raise users came into contact with myriads of ads did not mean they were actually noticing them or that they willingly reacted to those ads. Mentally blocking ads had become a second nature for many – and the result was the same as now, if not worse. Now that advertisers are aware their old type materials risk not even being allowed to reach the blocked Internet they must act upon it and restructure their campaigns and delivery methods. The centerpiece of this advertising storm is users’ freedom of choice. Since marketing (at least parts of it) has cultivated the idea that users’ choices are quite unimportant and can be overcome by ignoring them while exposing the unwilling Internet surfers to infinite ads, the efficiency of marketing campaigns decreased organically, even though the metrics showed otherwise.

Perhaps ad-blockers are a wake-up call. It all depends on how willing to see the facts are the current advertising professionals. The industry seems to not have regrouped yet, but it is surely moving towards something new, as the mobile ad-blockers study and the ripple effect it caused prove it.