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John Connolly

Ad Blockers and the Future of Digital Advertising

John Connolly
Ad Blockers and the Future of Digital Advertising

Imagine being able to surf the net without swatting at those pesky pop-up ads. As we all know, those pop-up ads, video ads and flash banners are a way of life – but they also allow our online experience to be free. In recent years, many users have downloaded software designed to block online ads – ad blockers – and their numbers are growing. Ad blocking has been around for years, but it became an industry obsession in 2015 when mainstream tech companies like Samsung and Apple embraced it.

Naturally, these ad-blockers aren’t sitting well with advertisers and publishers.

Lesser of Two Evils

Google gets 90 percent of its revenue from online ads, while mobile ads make up 75 percent of Facebook’s ad income. That’s big business. A lot of people are threatened – from publishers to search engines to social media sites.

IBM studies indicate 144 million people worldwide used ad blockers in 2015, up 70 percent from 2014. An arms race of sorts is developing in the software realm where you have the ad blockers vs. the companies creating software to block the software of the ad blocking software – yeah, it’s getting really confusing. But stop to think for a minute: while ad blocking may offer short-term relief for surfers, it could have long-term, tsunami-like effects on the quality and access of future web content.

Changing the Rules

Balancing user friendliness, ad and content judgment, plus the need to make some hard cash is a difficult thing to get right. Competing with diminished attention spans plus ad-blocking software has forced advertisers to rethink their strategies, if for nothing else because it’s a matter of survival.

Among the answers to the ad-blocker challenge are “acceptable ads,” – small text ads, small pictures, anything that is not interrupting the viewer’s flow, while still helping to finance the Web experience. What’s appealing about these types of ads is they usually get through Adblocker’s filters.

Adapting to the New World

Banner and pop-up ads, which once enjoyed high click-thru-rates (CTRs) of ten percent, are now viewed as little more than nuisances by the masses. As a result of ad-blocking software, many advertisers have turned to something called ‘native advertising.’ Native ads look similar to editorial content produced by traditional web publishers, but they usually have varying kinds of design features that distinguish it from non-sponsored content.

According to AdvertisingAge, the caveat here is that advertisers must target their viewers with native content that relates to what they are reading, searching and talking about. The most logical way to deliver this is through content and social media. If done right, it can add value to the publisher, brand and consumer. The largest social platforms in the world utilize native in-feeds like Facebook and Twitter.

Time, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal are also using new advertising integrations. These folks are rethinking their way of approaching the advertiser-user relationship. The Washington Post recently adopted a style where they offer single sponsor slots rather than placing display ads in content or splashed elsewhere over the site – a good example of value-added, non-obtrusive advertising.

Social media advertising is in for a dramatic upswing, according to Advertising Age.

Even the feds have taken note: In December, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  released a policy in which it laid out stringent guidelines on how media and advertising outlets should interpret native ads, saying care should be taken not to mislead consumers about their commercial natures. Retailer Lord & Taylor recently settled with the FTC over charges that it had not made clear it paid for a fashion magazine article promoting its clothing. This is only the first shot across the bow of native advertising.

Mobile Ad-Blocking

The ironic part about mobile ad blocking is that, despite Apple’s recent ad-blocking decision, publishers are still in the early days of making money off mobile screens, and not felt the actual effects of ad blocking yet. Blocking ads on Android, for example, has not been as simple as installing a browser extension. Google’s Chrome browser – preinstalled on all Android phones often alongside another browser – doesn’t support content blockers yet. So, while blocking on desktop browsers is to be commonplace, mobile ad-blocking has not caught on.  

SEMrush Offers Advertising Tools

SEMrush’s Display Advertising Tool analyzes a competitor’s ad headlines, sub-heads, images, design, CTAs and special incentives. It can also display text ad to media banner ratios, allowing you to see what works best for attracting prospective users and switching them to advertiser’s websites. It also gives you a crystal ball into ads we’ve noticed, giving you an indication of an ad’s stability in generating conversions.

SEMrush Display Advertising ToolSEMrush Display Advertising Tool

SEMrush Display Advertising Tool

SEMrush’s Keyword Ads History tool shows how long an ad has been used by the domain and its position in paid results. Click the position to see ad copies and visible URLs. The text ‘N/A’ in the report indicates SEMrush did not collect data for the given ad word in a particular month. A blank space means that the specific keyword wasn’t used for an ad campaign, as in this report done for the Kitchen Appliance manufacturer Dacor.

SEMrush Keyword Ads History ToolSEMrush Keyword Ads History Tool

Important Lessons

With digital marketing tools out like SEMrush, advertisers now have the ability to deliver their messages to the right people at the right time. Advertisers and publishers need to make more of an effort of discontinuing to employ what is known as the ‘pay and spray’ approach to advertising, which only drives people towards ad-blocking technology. Some advertisers and publishers have actually begun using data, content and technology more intelligently, but as with all digital advertising, the emphasis should be the value of the message first, landing the sale second.

What are your thoughts on ad blocking? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

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NewRiseDigital
NewRiseDigital
Bravo...!

People don't want ads they want messages of value at the right time That's why they block ads because there isn't sufficient trust built before the CTA is thrust upon them.

It's all about meeting expectations. When a user clicks through on a tweet they expect to get what I clicked for not a full page takeover saying "hey sign up for my stuff before I give you what you came here to read"

That thinking comes from a lack of confidence that your work won't be of value, which translates in either an abandoned page or simply ignoring the ad, or if you're really clicking the tiny hard to find x in a really odd place and then getting on with consuming the content

Content upgrades work so much better because the reader is already invested and wants to find out more. They'll opt in for sure right here because they haven't been slapped in the face by a pop up (have they? Oh no there they go....)

Is it any wonder consumers use ad blockers more and more if they're treated like noone has thought about their user journey and when they want to be served?

Treat your readers with respect and they'll respect you and your content too.
John Connolly
NewRiseDigital
Thanks for your comments. Now that the Federal Trade Commission has become involved with native advertising, you might begin seeing a 'trickle down' effect of sorts, with publishers and advertisers choosing to self-police their 'pay and spray' methods, too. While we do need advertising to keep our surfing experience free, I completely agree with you that web ads need to be presented with more intelligence and forethought to the consumer.
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