Society is getting increasingly tech savvy, resulting in a larger number of people finding ways around traditional digital marketing tactics such as pop up ads, display ads, and even PPC advertising. It is estimated that the growth in the popularity of ad-blocking software caused $22 Billion in lost advertising in 2015 alone. While this number may be lower for many companies, it does raise an important question – what financial and societal impact will ad-blocking software have on digital marketing in the foreseeable future?
Let’s take a step back for a moment. We all know the Internet is allowing people to become more tech savvy because Google search queries can supply answers on everything from how to increase your social media following to how to install an ad-blocker on your browser. This new ad-free style of consuming content is straight out of the Netflix playbook; an Internet streaming service that first provided content without commercials or interruptions. Most people simply do not want to sit through intrusive advertising anymore if they don’t have to, and that annoyance with advertising is extending beyond Netflix to online browsing. Now more than ever, people are employing Ad-Blocking extensions to prevent seeing advertisements while they are surfing the web.
What Are Ad-Blockers?
Ad Blockers are extensions or software installed on a browser to prevent intrusive advertisements from appearing on websites. Tech savvy users install this software so that they do not have to see pop-up ads, display ads, or even in-content ads on their favourite websites. The most popular ad-blocker is AdBlock Plus which offers this service for free and even boasts its ability to block ads on social sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Currently AdBlock Plus has been downloaded more than 300 Million times worldwide, making it the most popular browser extension. At the end of 2015 it was estimated that twenty percent of Canadians and fifteen percent of Americans were using ad-blocking extensions and software when online a number that is expected to growth through 2017.
What Impact Does Ad-Blocking Have On Pay Per Click Advertising?
PPC and display advertisements are the most affected by ad-blocking software across traditional search engines such as Google and Bing. Simply put, anyone using ad-blocking software will not see your ads. It doesn’t matter how well targeted they are, or if they are within your specific advertising parameters, the extensions will prevent users from seeing any of these kinds of ads. You can see why this is a scary Internet trend for many advertisers as PPC and display ads are their bread and butter of digital marketing.
To make this trend even more interesting, on top of traditional ad-blockers used for desktop browsing, mobile phone providers are now allowing their users to block unwanted advertisements. Apple’s new iOS 9 now features “content blockers” on its Safari app, successfully extending ad blocking to a new realm. Prior to this software unveil; advertisers could still have unfiltered access to users’ browsing on their mobile devices, making mobile marketing the ideal focus of many a digital marketing campaign. In January 2016 Android followed suit releasing the option for ad-blocking software in their Marshmallow update.
The argument for mobile ad-blocking software from a consumer’s perspective is clear. Ad blocking not only prevents annoying ads from following a user, but they reduce page-load times, and overall data charges. However what is unclear is the immediate and eventual impact this will have on digital marketing strategies.
Do Ad Blockers Affect Native Advertising?
One important thing to note is that native advertising remains unaffected by ad-blocking software. Native advertising is found inside specific apps that a user has downloaded, such as the ads one see within their Facebook app’s timeline, or that pop up during gameplay on your favourite mobile game. This is good news for digital marketers because users in the United States are spending 85 percent of their time on smartphones within these native apps and this is a trend that is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. This means as hard as a consumer works to block ads while browsing on their mobile devices, advertisers will still be able to tap into leads and sources of revenue by harnessing effective native advertising strategies.
How Can You Avoid Ad-Blocking Software?
At this time there is not much advertisers can do to combat the loss of PPC views besides making more effect, quality ads to their target audience members who are not currently using AdBlock Plus and are more likely to convert. There are however some more creative ways around this problem.
Founded in 2012 out of Dublin, Pagefair is a company with the goal of “re-establishing a fair deal between web users and the content creators who they want to support.” Pagefair is currently profiting off ad-blocking software by offering companies the opportunity to measure how many of their users they are losing to ad-blockers. They also provide services for producing non-intrusive ads for an ad blocking audience in hopes of putting the focus on loyalty and engagement instead of volume of clicks.
Forbes even took it a step further in recent months by asking users who visited their site with ad-blockers to turn it off in order to view their content and in return users were promised an “ad-light experience.” According to their report, from December 17 2015 to January 3rd 2016, over 42 percent of their 2.1 Million visitors turned off their ad-blockers and Forbes was able to gain 15 Million ad impressions that would have previously been blocked. This is an interesting compromise between content providers and consumers with Forbes understanding the annoyance of their ads but also the value of their content to their readership. They were able to monetize on the fact that most people who block ads do not block ads on all websites, and do not block all types of ads.
What Does The Future Of Digital Marketing Look Like?
Looking forward, it is likely that as technology continues to get more nuanced, so will its users. It won’t be long before there will be ways around native advertising, which means digital marketers need to stay a few steps ahead of the digital curve. One way to do this is by keeping up with the digital trends of the largest age demographic – the Millennials. Focusing on quality content that feels less like intrusive advertisements and closer to creative shareable content is what is going to get companies leads tech savvy users like the Millennials.
Users may be able to block a lot of traditional digital advertisements, but if effective content marketing strategies are employed, digital marketers will still have the opportunity to create viral content and an online buzz. The trick past the gate-keeping ad-blockers is knowing your target audience and what will inspire them enough to pass along your message to their friends, family, and followers. In fact it is this strategy of quality advertising over quantity that may have prevented users from taking up ad-blocking extremes in the first place. But perhaps that is a chicken and egg discussion for another time.