The sudden rise of Ad Blocking software and Apple’s integration of this software on its iOS9 program have created a lot of buzz in the digital marketing world. Users are fed up with advertisements taking up their screens and intruding on their content. It’s incredibly frustrating to visit sites with awful user experiences.It’s no different than enjoying meal after meal at your local restaurant and then having an awful experience and writing about it on Facebook or Yelp. The few negatives always stand out more than the “expected” outcomes.
What exactly is an ad blocker?
An ad blocker is hardware or software that blocks certain ads on a page. Ad blockers can come in the forms of extensions on web browsers, or mobile-specific ad-blocking browsers. No matter how an ad blocker is deployed the purpose is the same: To remove ads from the viewer’s screen. Ad blockers aren’t exactly new. This technology has been around for years, but Apple’s interest in the space, a move geared towards garnering partnerships with content publishers, has certainly driven the recent interest in the topic. The Interactive Advertising Bureau refers to ad blocking as “highway robbery.” So there’s another definition.
What does ad blocking do to the free content eco-system?
It won’t be a surprise to anyone reading this that I, a digital marketer, am not a fan of ad blocking. I like getting a paycheck, but more importantly I love how digital has changed the way we consume information and socialize with friends and businesses. The data has allowed us more targeted and relevant advertising to consumers.
Great content isn’t free. Stories, reports, websites, and most importantly, TIME, is not free. Throughout much of advertising’s existence the understanding between content consumer and publisher was that if I provide you content there will be advertising around it to support the business of creating such content. If we remove ads from the ecosystem, there will be no revenue coming in to support said content. Publications, TV, Radio, Newspaper and digital-only content would have to become subscription-based. Many of these mediums already are for some. But imagine a place where I can no longer go on CNN.com for political updates. I again would have to pay $100+ for a satellite or cable provider to show me CNN, or more accurately in the near future, pay $1 per month or $0.25 per pageview. Many favorite blogs would need subscriptions, or find a major distribution partner, to stay afloat.I don’t know many people interested in this scenario. Without the free web, many entrepreneurs and start-up bloggers wouldn’t have the opportunities if people had to pay for that same beginning content.
Where do we go from here?
Great question. Thanks! (Stop inner monologue). Two things need to happen in my opinion. First, an organization needs to govern the advertising online and make it virtually illegal to deploy intrusive or obnoxious advertising without indication from a user. The IAB could be that organization, but their self-described failures have been well-documented. in allowing the industry to chase display ad dollars and not see the denigration of user experience. To their credit the IAB is looking into ways to keep digital advertising from becoming a nuisance and return us to the days where the relationship was understood: Want free content? Deal with a few ads. Pretty simple.
Secondly, ad blockers and mobile use have driven the need for content-based advertising through Native Ads or Sponsored Content. This has given the user less intrusive, more environment-appropriate messaging. But the near future of digital marketing is in content and creating information that is fun, insightful, helpful or entertaining to the consumer. Content marketing allows for more sharing via social networks and often creates a consumer appreciative of something of value and not just an ad. My fear is in a matter of time Native Ad spots will become ineffective and be glossed over as much as banner ads are today. Alas, this industry is resilient and continues to adapt and change to reach consumers wherever they go.
One final thought on ad blockers
Those of us in this industry are the most responsible. Some publishers and websites do a great job of creating experiences for customers/viewers that not only inform but also entertain. We provide a place for business relationships to occur, sometimes subtly and other times through user-triggered advertising. Regardless how a business chooses to run a site and advertising, we are responsible for creating environments in which our consumers feel like they can get the information they want easily, effectively and with a reasonable amount of advertising. Full takeovers, in-your-face tactics do not work and should not be deployed unless an interaction has triggered such a move. Otherwise, we’re continuing a revolt against our industry of digital advertising and digital content consumption.
Publishers and advertisers need to hold each other accountable. Consumers won’t care enough. They’ll move on to someone like Apple who will provide them what they want. Be respectful of a user’s time. People aren’t our commodity. They are our connection to the digital ecosystem.