Ad-Blockers and the Future of Digital Advertising

On 15/11/2018 by Araceli Almada

You probably remember Clippy, the Microsoft Office assistant in the shape of a paperclip. From 1997 to 2004, Clippy would pop up out of nowhere on a Word file and offer its support in writing or revising a letter. The animated paper clip was near-universally hated, but it took, nevertheless, a few years to finally ditch it. Once Microsoft finally decided to put Clippy to sleep, it did so via an online game where ‘haters’ could throw office supplies at it. However, the tale of eternal interruption did not end there. Pop-ups, video ads that play automatically, and blinking ads were still shoved into readers’ faces on websites. This time, instead of an online game where haters could pelt annoying pop-ups, a non-violent solution arose: ad-blocking software.

The Rise of Ad-Blockers 

Ad-blockers allow Internet users to obtain information from sites without viewing ads displayed on the page. According to PageFair's report, 615 million devices used ad-block in 2017, with 11% of the global internet population blocking ads on the web. All generations, but especially millennials (67 percent of them) are installing ad-blockers. We can expect it is destined to grow in the years to come. 

To the world of digital marketing, ad-blockers are a threat. Users of this software access information on the web without generating ad revenue for site owners. Considering that much of the commercial information online is provided under ad-financed business models, ad-blockers have the power to undermine the digital ecosystem. While some publishers have directed their business model into a paywall system, many still heavily rely on advertising. In the latter case, ad-block users are unsettling the core existence of varied digital content and services. Not only do small publishers struggle with this issue, but big names such as Spotify need to curb ad-blockers. The music-streaming service has built tech to track and stop accounts of free riders who use its service without paying a premium to skip ads.

The Fall of Interruption Marketing 

The IAB, Interactive Advertising Bureau, doesn’t take a soft approach to fighting ad-blockers. By calling ad blocking a robbery, the institution states that it is an “extortionist scheme that exploits consumer disaffection and risks distorting the economics of democratic capitalism”. The IAB sheds light on the hypocrisy of ad-blocking software that hides behind the claim of representing the interests of begrudging consumers to generate revenue and exploit the system. Such strong language stems from the conviction that by subsidizing the cost of apps and website maintenance, advertising allows for diversification on the web and for low app prices. Without advertising, costs would be directly borne by consumers.

At the same time, the IAB does not fail to recognize what really stands at the core of the controversy: customer dissatisfaction. IAB research shows ad-block use is caused by a general disdain for advertising and concern over the safety of user information. 89% of respondents who have installed ad-blocking technology reported using ad-blockers to improve their online experience. The rise of ad-blockers must be a wake-up call to brands, one where they should commit to stopping interruption marketing and improving user-experiences of digital advertising.

A Native Solution

How can the online ad experience be improved? Looking at Clippy’s case, it’s easy to recognize that its eagerness to interrupt the users’ flow of navigation - and offer its unsolicited advice - was its most annoying trait. People simply don’t want to be interrupted. 

To solve this issue, digital marketers came up with a strategy known as native advertising. Native ads aim to showcase brands on websites without screaming for attention or disturbing users. Advertisements blend in a website’s organic content and readers have the choice of either bypassing or diving deeper into them. These kinds of ads are found to have a higher engagement rate, as they match a site’s look and feel and don’t detract from the content. In fact, consumers view native ads over 50% more than banner ads. Native advertising follows through with a balanced compromise between respecting the user experience and the need of online advertising to sustain business.

If you don’t want your customers wishing they could throw a stapler at your ad, contact us today so we can help you succeed in setting up your native advertising campaign.

Image sources: Microsoft, Flikr Pascale Kinchen