The existential crisis of ad blocking

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Stop Signs

Adblocking has rapidly become extremely popular amongst web users who dislike advertisements in their browsers and devices. The feature has, not surprisingly, been most popular amongst millennials & techies all over the world. This causes the media industry with a real dilemma for their monetisation models and has created “a lot of self-interested finger-pointing, moralising and rationalising from all parties.”

The sheer speed of growth of ad-blocking technology across Europe is nothing short of spectacular. Add to that the fact that some “for profit” ad-blocking services effectively hold the keys to advertising impressions at a cost and everything really starts to become fluid.

Websites are trying to counter ad-blocking by simply refusing entry to a visitor using an ad-blocking service but this can be counter productive as the fickle nature of web users means they’ll simply move on to access what they want elsewhere.

One thing is abundantly clear though, if all the paid ads are blocked then most of the good “free” content will disappear and that’s simply a race to the bottom.

The best way to sidestep this upstart technology is for publishers, platforms and advertisers to increase their quality, choice and user experience. Change the way advertising is implemented so as not to irritate the end user into ad-blocking.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to produce editorial and content that has the advertisers message subtly embedded within, anything from named products in recipes to product placement in photography. Of course this has ramifications for the independence of editorial, however, if done sensitively and around the edges there’s no reason why the benefits to advertisers wouldn’t outweigh the status quo of ad-blocking.

Then there is always the potential of video. Any encoded video cannot be altered by ad-blocking software in any way. You can embed the advertisement right inside the video and it cannot be sidestepped. Videos can be sponsored with the sponsors logo on the screen at all times, the content can be pre-rolled with an advert burnt in or the content itself could feature products or news of an advertisers service.

Why not operate like a commercial TV station, scheduled ad-breaks and sponsored programming? After all, broadcast television is still the goto solution for a big advertising reach, so why not bring that revenue model to online?

Ad-blocking maybe just a fad or perhaps the public response to poorly thought out bandwidth hogging advertising, but it’s certainly going to change things going forward. It’s how we redefine our advertising that will deliver the holy grail solution.

The existential crisis of ad blocking will resolve itself – but be careful what you wish for

states brand authority Tom Asacker and media strategist Mark Ramsey in Business Intelligence trends for 2016.