What is ad blocking?
Ad blockers are software programs that remove all visible ads on websites (such as pop-up adverts or auto-playing videos), allowing consumers to only see content. People are growingly using them, especially since the phenomenon expanded from desktop to mobile.
Exactly how widespread is this trend? Well, consider the following numbers from the 2015 Ad Blocking Report:
- The number of people using an ad blocking software globally grew by 41% last year;
- Ad blockers usage in Europe grew by 35%. That’s 77 million monthly active users (second quarter of 2015).
According to the PageFair and Adobe’s report, Greece has the highest rate of ad block usage in Europe, while Slovakia has the lowest.
Obviously, ad blockers are successful, and users seem to be happy with that. So why is it controversial? The problem is, using ad blocking softwares breaks the implicit agreement that users get presented with ads in return for access to free content.
In a nutshell, ad blocking is used to prevent ads to be shown on websites. As usage of such technology is rising, it also considerably affects the online ad market. The reduction of ad views makes many sites worry about falling incomes. And rightfully so: for 2015 alone, advertisers have reportedly lost some 22 billion $ in ad revenues! This is though on the future of their business model.
Why do people use ad blockers?
The deal is indeed that users are willing to accept being presented with ads if the content is free. But a lot of websites have become sort of invaded with advertisements. People are fed up with music that goes off on its own and pop-ups that are impossible to close and having to scroll down to see the content they are looking for. They get the feeling to be bombarded with ads, and often claim that they don’t “have a choice”.
You also hear lots of people saying they don’t like advertising because it’s intrusive and/or annoying: autoplay videos, giant ads in the middle of an article… This type of extreme dislikable ad experience is too much for people trying to access the content. This suggests that consumers simply don’t like bad advertising or irrelevant marketing messages.
Ad blocking softwares have thus become increasingly popular. Among other reasons why people use them is the fact that webpages load much more quickly once the ad blocker is installed.
In short, it provides a better online experience.
Answers to ad blockers
In order to address the problem, you should consider ad blocking as a form of users feedback. This is them telling you that they are sick of bad advertising experiences. Basically, “every install of an ad blocker is a statement against annoying ads”, slow browsing, and other negative effects. Now, how can you adjust to this feedback?
You could simply deny access to people using ad blockers. That’s what Forbes, among many others, decided to do with their website. Visitors using ad blockers a greeted with the following message:
Since the beginning of the initiative in mid-December, 42% of the visitors who were asked have either disabled their blocker or white listed Forbes.com. Still, that’s 58% of visitors who probably just migrated to another source… The Internet is so vast. Ask yourself the following: is your website really so special that users would be willing to deactivate their ad blocker in order to access your content? Put you on their white list might not require to turn off the ad blocker, but it doesn’t look very promising either: apparently, if we get back to Forbes.com, the pages would still show plenty of ads.
The other solution is to find marketing alternatives to traditional online advertising. As ad blocking technology becomes more sophisticated, the point is eventually to find other ways of getting your message across. One way to do this is to implement a native advertising campaign. But our favorite solution is to focus on creating great, audience-focused content that is more helpful, more engaging, more entertaining and more shareable. This should allow you to keep reaching consumers with your marketing messages.
Concretely, we’re saying that it’s all about the content, which is “such a clear antidote” to the problem. Why not invest in earned media, in those good old-fashioned PR activities, in content marketing, and in social media? All these alternatives have the benefits of remaining out of reach for ad blocking and offering greater credibility than traditional online ad.