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How to respond to the rise in ad blocking

12th Feb 2016
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If 2015 was the year that ad blocking got its foothold, 2016 is looking like the year that everybody’s doing it. The rise of ad blockers is evidence that brands haven’t kept pace with customer expectations when it comes to relevant, timely content. 

Ad blocking technology is putting pressure on advertisers to improve their media strategies and give consumers fitting and well-timed messages that they welcome, rather than intruding upon their online experiences. 

But how do companies ensure their messages aren’t simply fired against an ad blocking wall? Here are the top five trends we expect to see in coming months.

1. Publishers will seek to know more about their customers 

We can expect publishers to deliver more relevant advertising and a more personalised experience, which is dedicated to better understanding the identities behind their ‘unique users’. By matching customer data across devices and channels, we believe publishers can begin to build rich user profiles and ensure they are better placed to present the content a person wants to see, when they want to see it.  

For instance, if ‘David from Newquay’ really enjoys golf, publishers will be able to identify this through specific behaviours. Does he use his tablet to share an article on the latest match results at weekends? Does he research the latest fitness technology from his phone on his train journey home? Does he open an email and click through to a competition to win a golfing break from a sports attire brand? The list of potential insights go on, but by identifying these user habits and activities across channels and devices, publishers will be better placed to approach customers in the timely way they’re striving for.  

2. Publishers will create new formats

Advertising is the business model for most digital publishers, but ad blocking has thrown a major wrench into the cogs of that model. Publishers will look to run ads in new formats that are more likely to be engaging and can’t be blocked as easily. For example, we may see them increasingly turn to mobile app ads and paywalls.

3. Advertising will get better

Advertisers will realise changes must be made so customers aren’t as quick to block them. They will push to make ad content more appealing, which entails not just the creative, but also requires a refined targeting strategy too, in order to deliver full value. 

This opens the door to bigger-picture needs, particularly when it comes to connecting the other channels in a customer’s journey. By doing this, advertisers can deliver a precise and engaging approach with their audiences rather than pouring ad spend down the drain. 

4. Advertisers will start to police themselves (a little)

As advertisers build a fuller picture of their customers, we expect to see a push from the IAB for advertisers to adopt best practices to make ads faster-loading and more appealing. Publishers, too, will be increasingly sensitive about running ads that hurt the user experience.

5. Consumers have some decisions to make

Online content only seems free. Would readers rather see an ad or pay to read an article? Consumers may decide it’s worth turning off the ad blocker if it’s the only way to access desired content for free. 

As advertisers build a fuller picture of their customers, we expect to see a push from the IAB for advertisers to adopt best practices to make ads faster-loading and more appealing.

It’s still early days in the ad blocking battle: the landscape and technology is changing quickly on all sides. But publishers and advertisers can start taking action and make steps in the right direction to prepare for the development of this trend by following these key steps: 

  1. Understand the full impact of ad blockers on your ads or content: Advertisers and publishers need to pay close attention to how their content and advertising is rendering both with and without ad blockers. Ad blockers aren’t fool-proof: they can block non-ad content by accident and break the user experience. Make sure you understand what your users are seeing.
  2. Be more relevant: The more relevant the advert, the more likely it is to be valued by consumers. This is where people-based strategies, which identify customers across devices and channels, and tie the data back to a user-level profile, become crucial. Real-time, always-on technology for collecting, matching and activating data within milliseconds can empower you to engage customers like David from Torquay at the exact moment they’re in market for your product.  
  3. Pursue a diversified strategy: Not everyone is using ad blockers yet, but they are having a significant impact. Make sure all your messages can’t be wiped away with one software application, and explore in-app ads, native ads, and whether you can be doing more with email marketing.

At the end of the day, publishers stand to lose potential customers if they feel ads are not personalised to them. Casting broad nets with advertisements is likely to waste your money and annoy your customers. But by putting the customer’s experience first and making better use of the right data, businesses can listen more closely to what customers want the moment they want it, helping them to drive better value in their media spend. 

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By Edward Wills
18th Feb 2016 12:48

It's a tough one as a lot of websites rely on the income their ads generate.

I was on a website that was taking forever to load a few months back and I thought I'd try an ad block programme to see if it made a difference. It speeds things up dramatically so there is no wonder they are so popular.

Ultimately the ad industry needs to work on speed and users need to appreciate that websites can't publish for free.

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