According to PageFair’s 2015 report, an estimated 198 million desktop and mobile users actively use ad blocking software, globally increasing nearly 41% in the last 12 months alone. The introduction of ad blockers has been popularized by the 18 to 34-year-old age range, a demographic that represents the majority of all internet users. Could this herald the demise of internet advertising? Sure, some publishers deem this an existential crisis to digital advertising, but we’ve interpreted online advertising blockers as a challenge to create more valuable content.
In reality, internet users do not get gratification from irrelevant advertisements, finding them intrusive or annoying. After volleying both arguments against ad blocking, it’s clear that this deterrent will force digital gatekeepers to improve content if they want to be competitive, ultimately enhancing the user experience. So, how exactly do you create more engaging advertising content? For starters, ads should be less invasive and more personalized to the consumer’s interests.
The technology age of social media and mobile devices curated a generation of consumers who refuse to waste precious time on an ad that depletes battery life or slows down their browser. The escalation of ad blocking should only motivate marketers to create more valuable ads that resonate with the intended audience in a smarter, creative way. One solution to improving the advertising landscape is the introduction of more native ads, and when well executed, native ads extend value to the publisher and consumer.
Of course, some will engage in polemics about native advertising, but with a little journalistic integrity and relevancy, consumers won’t be inclined to use an ad blocker. Take the Netflix and Wall Street Journal collaboration for the launch of the Netflix’ series “Narcos.” The native advertisement, “Cocainenomics: The Story Behind the Medellin Cartel,” reads as a historical article, yet the entire spread is one giant sponsored ad — shielded from the veil of an ad blocker. While native advertising is by no means universal for all campaigns and brands, it does encompass the innovation and transformation marketers will have to implement going forward.
With a healthy dose of irony, it’s interesting to note that some ad blocking software providers play to both the consumer and the advertiser, offering marketers the technology to overcome the adblocker if their content isn’t overly intrusive and animated. While the long-term impact of ad blocking is still relatively uncertain, the advertising industry has already experienced an immediate response. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently introduced its LEAN initiative, an approach that encourages Light, Encrypted, Ad Choice-supported, Non-invasive advertising. The goal of LEAN isn’t to eliminate display ads, but it does seek to kindle a fair balance between consumer tolerance and rich ad experiences.
The industry is annually plagued with $8 billion worth of issues ranging from content piracy to ad blocking and online advertising fraud, so it’s really no surprise that the IAB is trying to make the entire ecosystem less invasive.