The rise of ad blockers continues to frustrate marketers and publishers. But with nearly half of consumers blocking ads, brands are beginning to find workarounds.
Once limited to spam control, ad avoidance applications gained traction in the mid-2010s. Since then, Google Chrome and other browsers have begun using sophisticated built-in blockers, which, combined with third-party programs, have created a hostile environment for digital marketers.
Publishers have found middling success by asking users to turn off their ad blockers during site visits. Journalistic outlets like The New York Times are able to play the “greater good” card, but purely entertainment-based publishers don’t have that kind of leverage.
After enjoying an ad-free online environment, most users won’t willingly cede control back to advertisers. Rather than fight an unwinnable war, advertisers and publishers need to make a few key adjustments:
In the past, platforms welcomed users with a smattering of ads. Today, ad blockers bring users directly to the content, leaving publishers with few chances to collect on the media they provide.
To combat this issue, publishers must give up their attempts to turn back the hands of time. Instead, they should incentivize consumers to choose to view ads.
Ads are inherently opt-out experiences. Through opt-in policies, publishers can ingratiate themselves with users by providing small rewards for account creation and whitelisting the site on their ad blocker. Access to exclusive content or abilities, such as commenting on articles, may be enough to convince many consumers to become ad-supported members.
In May 2018, Europe’s GDPR codified many of the limitations marketers face as a result of ad blockers. Last year, California followed suit with its own law, CCPA, regarding privacy and data collection.
Practical Law created a comprehensive breakdown of how the requirements of the laws differ. But because publishers serve such wide audiences, many must comply with both.
These two may be the first big legislative moves to expand user rights regarding digital data, but they won’t be the last. Rather than rush to comply with every new bill, marketers and publishers should look to the future to anticipate how regulators will move.
A national or international privacy framework coming in the next few years is a good, if not certain, bet. Advertisers and platform owners — even those not subject to GDPR or CCPA — should collect only as much data as they need and build internal processes to make data expungement easier.
Marketers should view ad blockers and privacy laws as two pieces of the same puzzle: practical and legal barriers to personalizing the ad content consumers see. Companies can’t risk stiff penalties or lost consumer trust, tempting though breaking the rules may be.
Real engagement may be tougher to track, but it matters more than impressions. Marketers must be willing to experiment with tactics that are less driven by metrics.
Even before ad blockers turned the tide against advertisers, ad impressions gave a false sense of effectiveness. Anyone who used a computer for more than a week became adept at filtering out unnecessary information.
Today’s consumers are better than ever at ignoring spammy content. Rather than try to make up lost ground, advertisers and publishers should collaborate to create more native content that provides real value to readers while fulfilling advertising needs. Influencer marketing, especially micro-influencer marketing, offers great potential for this kind of outreach.
When exploring these channels, marketers shouldn’t obsess over data to the point that they fail to invest any of their budgets in unmeasurable unknowns. In its guide to B2B brand strategy, Renegade cautions companies against letting red-herring metrics cloud their judgment.
Digital is critical, but people still live in the real world. Advertisers shouldn’t become so fixated on online opportunities that they fail to see all of those that await them in the physical space. Beyond billboards and television ads, advertisers can attract genuine interest through pop-up experiences and partnerships with pop-culture figures.
Publishers can do this, too. Political platforms can leverage their influence to sponsor ideologically aligned causes and protests. Sports sites can host experiences at major and local events. Food and beverage publishers can bring fans to meet chefs and take cooking classes. There’s no reason online publishers can’t invest in real-world engagements.
Consumers have the power to curate their own online experiences. As brands personalize content and outreach, advertisers and publishers shouldn’t lose sight of the value that exists in places that ad blockers can’t touch. The silver lining of ad blocking is that it’s encouraging marketers and publishers to engage consumers in the ways they truly want.
Tiffany Delmore is the CMO and Co-founder of SchoolSafe.org, a company helping to develop safer educational environments through the use of technology.
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