What’s the current state of ad blocking? For starters, digital ad spending is rising as more and more people browse the Internet on their mobile devices. As consumers become increasingly comfortable with technology, their demand for a better user experience also grows. This includes expecting more from the ads presented to them. It’s clear that consumers aren’t fully satisfied as over 200 million people around the world have started blocking digital ads.
These numbers have left many marketers feeling worried, which isn’t surprising. It’s not only harder for advertisers to reach consumers, but online publishers often rely on ads as their main revenue source.
It does sound like the start of an epidemic, but there is hope for a cure. Digital marketers must proactively work to understand the growing needs of consumers, as this will help them improve the user experience. It’s also important to stay abreast of the latest ad blocking developments. Having a solid grasp on the state of the ad blocking dilemma will help marketers determine new strategies for slowing the escalating adoption of ad blockers.
How Dire Is the Threat, Really?
The first step to developing a strategy is looking at these ad blocking numbers objectively. This technology isn’t as widespread as one might think. Big headlines often shout out scary statistics; however, much of the supporting data is provided by companies selling ad blocking tools and services. Thankfully, comScore published its own study on the matter and their findings should help lower your concerns. Less than 10% of desktop Internet users in the U.S. have installed ad blocking software, which is much lower than other firms have reported.
Nonetheless, the threat of ad blockers to mobile advertising must be taken seriously. Mobile ad blocking is much higher than desktop. Research firm Global Web Index performed a survey earlier this year and found that 37% of mobile users are blocking ads because mobile usage is outpacing desktop usage. This should be something to watch. Why are mobile users scrambling to remove advertisements from their mobile world?
The answer is simple: digital ads are responsible for slower page load times and online clutter, plus they can burn through data plans. They create a poor user experience for the mobile user. Bloated ads and slower page loading are cited as a primary factor for people installing ad blocking software, which is readily available in Apple’s App Store.
What can we do to slow the rise of ad blocking (and gain customers)? Here are five ideas:
1. Help Improve the User Experience
As consumers we’ve become impatient, and are more likely to leave a website if it doesn’t load quickly. This can be a big problem for publishers that rely on driving traffic to their websites. Therefore, their only immediate solution is to mitigate the growth of ad blocking by thinning out the ads they host. By reducing the size of ads allowed on their sites, both in terms of physical size and code size, publishers seek to improve the user experience. These types of optimizations helped Vox Media improve website load times by over 50%.
Content distribution channels have also been introducing new ways to quickly serve content to consumers, such as Facebook’s Instant Articles or Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). As a marketer, it’s important that we also do our part to help our digital partners improve the user experience by creating ads that aren’t going to slow down load times on websites.
2. Make Ads More Relevant
Capturing the attention of consumers can be difficult because they’ve become desensitized to the onslaught of irrelevant and intrusive ads on a daily basis. They expect a more personalized experience from brands and are more likely to block your ads if they aren’t relevant, which is why you need to present them with ads for products and services that actually interest them. For instance, if a consumer buys a yoga mat from you, retarget them with a product that complements their yoga mat, such as a yoga bag or yoga pants instead of another yoga mat.
3. Help Consumers Understand the Ad Value
Branding ads might help build awareness of your company, but they aren’t doing much for the consumer. What’s in it for them?
Make sure your ads convey benefits to your consumer, such as exclusive offers or sales. If a consumer spends a lot of time on a specific area of your website then you should retarget them with creative ads that align with their area of interest. Give them a good reason to come back to you. For instance, if you’re a higher education marketer and a visitor spends a lot of time on your financial page then perhaps you should target them with ads promoting an article that highlights the value of investing in a degree. To capture the eye, make sure your ad is visually appealing and focuses on one benefit with a strong call to action.
4. Make Ads Useful and Actionable
Digital ads to drive sales or generate leads need to clearly guide the consumer into taking action. They should elicit a call to action that is useful to the consumer – it needs to make contextual sense. For instance, retarget them with an ad if they abandoned their shopping cart. Offer free shipping if they click through to your site. If they are near or inside your store then run geo-targeted mobile campaigns offering them a special discount. Have them call your hotel directly to get one night free or a free room upgrade.
5. Make Sure You Have a Complete Understanding of What’s Working
Ad blocking has made attribution and performance analytics data even more important. With less people seeing your ads, it’s imperative that the ads that are getting viewed drive conversions. So be sure you have a full understanding of not only views and click-throughs, but online and offline conversions, including store visits, phone call conversions, and purchases. Then optimize messaging, targeting, and spend for what’s driving the most business.
As the digital industry continues to better understand the ad blocking dilemma, simple steps can be taken to help offset it. Marketers will benefit if they make the user experience a top priority. Advertisements need to become more consumer friendly, especially on mobile. Keep the size of your ads more compact. Ensure the content is relevant. If you can personalize your ads to the specific interests of the consumer you’re trying to reach, then you’ll have a better chance of gaining customers and, hopefully, cutting down on their desire to use ad blocking technology.