It isn’t easy to rattle the media industry, but it has been done with a little thing called ad blocking. I am sure by now that you have heard about it. It has been around for a few years in fact, and gaining steam as of late. If I told you that ad blocking really caught on because of online gaming circles, would you believe me? I guess it doesn’t really matter because that is where this interesting trend started to really take off. Lesson: Don’t get in the way of a gamer and their game. Seriously, don’t. The irritation with ads has now “officially” boiled over. This is largely in part to Apple’s release of ad blockers in the iOS App Store.
First and foremost, let’s discuss how ad blocking works. A browser (such as Google or Safari) makes a request to a web server for page content to be served. Then the browser makes a separate request to an ad server for the ads on that page to be served. Having an ad blocker is similar to having a firewall around the browser. To an extent, the browser is being controlled by the ad blocker. The ad blocker blocks the browser from ever requesting the ads to be served by the ad server. This results in the ad server not even being aware that the visitor is present.
Most can agree that ad blocking apps were created as a solution to people’s irritation with the “noise” that ads can create. Ads can have an effect on load times and often take up valuable real estate on a webpage. Not to mention (especially in the case of mobile), there have been very poor ad experiences from teeny tiny banners with hardly legible text, to full screen pop-ups. Basically, the mobile ad space is punctuated with less than savory user experiences.
Most of the “ad hate” is directed at the advertisers themselves, but they aren’t the only ones losing. Ultimately, it is the publisher that is losing the most because the site is not able to monetize the views. The damage however, is more than financial. It is irreversible because now users can do what they never could before, which is erase ads entirely.
Now is the time for advertisers to be agile. Adapt. Ad blocking isn’t going anywhere. So there needs to be a happy medium. By providing the user with a valuable experience, he or she will be likely to see value in the ad and not view it as noise. Advertisers need to invest in experiences that are relevant and useful. Give users a choice (more or less) in their online ad experiences. Find out what works and what doesn’t.
Perhaps predictably, there will be growth in native advertising. To really capitalize on native advertising, the collaboration between platform and brand needs to feel so unfeigned that the only potential outcome is to enhance and enrich the user experience. In the same breath, there will also be a rise in Facebook ads as they too are unaffected by ad blockers.
According to an article by the Columbia Journalism Review, Ben Barokas, former senior executive at Google, says that, “One of the consequences of using ad blocking software is that it significantly damages the value exchange between consumers and creators of digital content.” You see, ad blocking takes a toll on everyone because ultimately, advertising keeps the internet free. Not to mention, many apps end up blocking products the user is trying to see. More to the point, content isn’t going to be free anymore if ad blockers continue to grow in popularity. It is that simple.
To take a queue from Dr. Ryan, the Head of Ecosystem at PageFair (an anti-ad blocking company), “Don’t be a part of the problem. We, as advertisers, need to break the cycle. Avoid ads that create a poor user experience and really have a deep understanding of campaign frequency, data collection, and inventory.”
“The history of organizations is littered with the corpses of enterprises which failed to respond appropriately to the demands of the environment for change.” – Katz & Kahn