Ad Blocking: It Isn’t Just for Geeks Anymore

shutterstock_339901766Tech-savvy computer users aren’t the only people using programs like AdBlock Plus on their web browsers. The process of blocking ads on websites is so simple and easily integrated into one’s browsing experience. As a result, approximately 45 million internet users in the United States had an ad blocker running on their browser in late 2015, and almost 200 million people worldwide were found to be running one as well. Further still, internet users are telling their friends about these new tools — the use of ad blockers increased almost 50 percent between 2014 and 2015. These statistics, gathered by PageFair, were released in the company’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report. PageFair estimates that American companies will lose more than $20 billion in revenue in 2016 due to the use of ad blockers. As technology companies begin to offer more ad-blocking options for their mobile users, the problem will continue to grow.

A 2016 survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and Advertising Age of almost 2,000 marketers found that 78 percent of those surveyed believed that ad blockers had a negative effect on their messaging efforts. Of that 78 percent, 20 percent indicated that the impact was very negative.

Ask Publishers and Programmatic Sellers about Their Responses to Ad Blocking

Brands, publishers, and ad sellers have access to a variety of tools to deal with ad blockers. Publishers can add technology to their sites to determine if visitors have an ad blocker turned on. When the technology detects a visitor with an enabled ad blocker, the site can display a note on the screen that asks the visitor to turn off the blocker to help support the site. Publishers can also use this technology to block visitors with ad blockers from seeing their content entirely. Content sites can also charge for ad-free content access, which lets subscribing visitors see all of the site’s content while keeping their ad blockers enabled.

Publishers can also install tools to actively combat ad-blocking software. “Ad recovery” tools allow publishers to detect ad blockers, move pages to domains that are not on an ad blocker’s blacklist, or serve less obvious ads. AdExchanger.com reviewed several of these tools.

Understand and Use Real Native

Although many publishers claim to offer “native advertising” programs, the original native ad format is on its last legs. True native advertising was comprised of objective editorial content that was created by a publisher and did not focus on a company or its product or service. Advertisers might have had an expert employee quoted in the article, but the content was straight editorial from the publishing source. In being associated with the content, the advertiser gained expert status, credibility, and trust, and the advertiser also garnered increased ad sales via consumer awareness of the business and consumer preference for the product.

Most of today’s “native advertising” is actually sponsored content that mirrors the old advertorial format, and ad blockers recognize these obvious ads. Consider backing off from your selling message in your content and partnering with publishers who offer true native advertising. You will still need to include a disclosure in your advertising content, but you might be able to serve the content without raising red flags from ad blockers.

Instructional videos, “how-to” articles, and other educational content don’t require a call to action if they send the message that you are the expert who created the content and are therefore the best choice for a consumer purchase.

Use Native Apps

Ad blockers don’t work on the proprietary native apps that you may offer and that your customers download for their mobile devices. Consider serving some of your content and marketing messages through these channels.

Learn FTC Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines and penalties pertaining to the use of native advertising in its myriad forms. These guidelines include instructions regarding disclosure, sourcing, and other creation and posting practices. Learn these rules and use them to create more ethical content and to avoid getting slapped with a fine.

Don’t Provoke Google

Google requires publishers to properly identify their paid content. If they don’t, the publisher’s pages get knocked down search results and news feeds, if not knocked off entirely. Make sure your content team reads and understands Google’s terms and conditions and follows them to the letter.

Research AdBlock Plus

According to the people behind AdBlock Plus, a popular software tool for ad blocking, a survey of their users found that 75 percent of those surveyed don’t want to block ads entirely. In response, AdBlock Plus does not block all ads, and its creators give publishers and advertisers a specific set of parameters to guide them in the creation of “acceptable” ads. The company also provides users with the ability to set their filters to allow “acceptable” ads while running AdBlock Plus. Criteria for “acceptable” ads include guidelines for disclosure practices, ad placement, and ad sizing.

The company also whitelists websites that include “acceptable” ads, a move that allows users of its software to see ads on said whitelisted sites. In some cases, companies can get on this whitelist by paying for the privilege, raising eyebrows and cries of hypocrisy from AdBlock Plus supporters and detractors alike.

Knowledge Is Power

The key to minimizing the impact of ad blockers is not only found in preventive technology. Instead, content creators should empower themselves and their brands by understanding how these programs work, developing a working knowledge of how partners are dealing with the challenges posed by ad blockers, creating minimally intrusive content, and serving content in the most effective ways possible.