Ad Blocking Is An Opportunity, Not An Obstacle
by Stephanie Hoffman-Murphy, Op-Ed Contributor, March 31, 2017
Ad blocking is a hot topic. While many argue it’s still in its infancy stage, it’s not to be ignored. Fun fact: “One in five smartphone users, or almost 420 million people worldwide, block advertising when browsing the web on cellphones. Still, only 4.3 million Americans, or 2.2 percent of smartphone owners, use ad blockers,” says this New York Times article.
What’s most worrisome is not that ad blocking exists. It’s the reason it ever started at all. It indicates consumers view advertising negatively — with ad blocking they can stop ads from being served to them. Maybe it’s because they find them invasive, annoying or even irrelevant. None of these bodes well for the future of advertising. And yet, I can’t help but think — can you blame customers for using ad blockers to have faster site loads, and the ability to watch a 15-second video without having to watch a 30-second commercial before that has no relevance to what they want to see?
So, where should advertisers go from here? A technology arms race is not the answer; we need to be thinking smarter, not harder. Here are some considerations you should keep in mind as you’re media planning:
- Know your audience Always start with target audience exploration — their behaviors, attitudes, media consumption and consumer journey will help you figure out where you need to be and when you need to be there. Plus, the more you know about your consumer, the better chance you have of coming up with a plan that actually drives conversions.
- Understanding the media landscape and how ad blocking is evolving Don’t keep creating the same types of ads hoping consumers will stop blocking them. Explore other avenues that have replaced or supplemented (depending on how you look at it) display ads and pre-roll, which already cemented online real estate. Think sponsored content, content integration, and native advertising.
- Develop original content with “owned media destinations” If users value your brand, there’s an opening to become a publisher and build brand preference through content. Company publications like Red Bull’s Red Bulletin or AmEx’s OPEN Forum are killing the game.
From my point of view, advertisers should always view ad blocking as an opportunity versus an obstacle because it challenges brands to think more creatively. Focus on your audience, focus on quality content and you’ll see a difference. Similarly to the way spam filters have gotten better at letting in good emails and keeping out bad ones, over time ad blockers will become less about “blocking” and more about “filtering.” Now, more than ever, consumers expect value and personalization. So, always strive to provide that, with or without ad blocking.