Ad blockers, and ways to deal with them, have been on the advertising industry’s collective mind for years, but it’s now more of an issue than ever. Not only are they being used on desktop, but they’re growing massively on mobile platforms too. This is a worry for the ad industry, as most browsing is done on mobile now as opposed to desktop.
So how can the ad industry respond? Well, there are a few different approaches. All of them work to some extent, but it’s important for the industry to focus on the long term. We need to discover why people started using ad blockers. From there, the industry can take responsibility, own the conversation, and start to change users’ attitudes towards online display advertising. Here are a few ways to start acting on the ad blocking issue:
Start the conversation
One way to combat ad blockers, is to simply talk about them. People are used to browsing online and reading content for free, without really thinking about how the creators and publishers actually make money. So they just see a banner ad, and don’t want that to interrupt whatever they’re reading, so they block it.
Some publishers recognise this, and they’ve started to talk about it. Take Forbes, for example. They detected users with ad blockers enabled, and blocked them from reading articles. From there, they published a reasoned argument against ad blockers which got great engagement. They didn’t see a big drop in readership either, so once people had seen the argument against them, it all made sense.
It’s key to be honest and open if you want to gain the trust of your users, and a two way conversation will always help. If you want users to disengage their ad blockers, you need to tell them why they should, and what they should expect when they do.
Better ad design
This, historically, has probably been the biggest issue. For a long, long time, banner ads were ugly. They vibrated, expanded to cover whole pages, told users they had a message just to generate clicks, and in some cases, infected computers with malware.
Thankfully, actions were taken against these ads, so they’re nowhere near as common. They still exist, but all the industry can rely on is designers wanting to build the most attractive, user friendly banners possible. This is easier than ever too, with so many programs and apps available which make the design process efficient and streamlined. This makes the end result attractive as well as optimised.
The next step would be to have a minimum industry standard, but until then, the industry needs each company and each designer to take real pride in their work, and keep the audience at the forefront of their thoughts at every stage of the process.
Another big problem with banner ads in the past was that they weren’t targeted at all until relatively recently. Users were being bombarded with ads that they had no interest in at all. Again, this could justify anyone using an ad blocker. It’s the same as walking down the street looking for a shoe shop and someone trying to sell you a trip to Australia. The chances are, you don’t want it, and it just distracts you.
Given that there are so many programmatic options, and it’s so easy to target relevant audiences for campaigns, there’s really no excuse for the old approach. The more targeted and relevant the ad, the higher the engagement. This, in turn, will mean people don’t want to block ads as they are seeing things they want to see.
Ad reinsertion is a more controversial way to tackle ad blockers. Rather than address the issue, accept responsibility, and improve the standards of advertising, this is where publishers use a tool to get around the blockers themselves.
This could be a huge problem, both short and long term, as it doesn’t take the user into consideration at all. It basically serves an ad without even considering whether a person wants to see it, totally ignoring the fact that they have gone out of their way to block said ads. Of course, in the short term it can work for the advertisers and publishers, but it’s like putting a plaster over a crack in a dam. It won’t work for long.
Pay for whitelisting
There is a more blunt way to combat ad blockers, and that’s to pay for whitelisting. Advertisers and publishers alike can pay a fee, as well as agreeing to meet certain criteria when it comes to ads, and be placed on the whitelist of some ad blockers. This allows the advertisers to still maximise their reach, and the publishers to maximise their income.
It’s a fair approach too. The rules aren’t too restrictive, and ensure that the user experience isn’t interrupted. It also encourages a higher standard of banner design, which again is only going to make users more happy to see ads, and less likely to feel the need to ad block.
To sum it all up
It’s clear there are more direct options to tackle ad blockers, but none of them will work for the long term. The sensible, productive, and proactive way to discourage their use is to be open with users. Talk about the issues, acknowledge them and deal with them. Produce great ads, targeted to specific audience, and give the users a reason to like them. This will be the lasting solution for advertisers looking to deal with ad blockers.