The Growing Threat of Ad Blockers

March 28th, 2016 by John Callery

BLOG-Growing-Threat-of-AdBlockersThere’s no denying the fact that more and more people are using ad blocking software these days, and this trend only promises to get stronger in the coming years. Recent estimates indicate that 40% of the world’s internet users have installed some kind of ad blocking software, which is up from just 28% in mid-2015 (Newsweek, 2016). In the U.S., an estimated 45 million internet users were using ad blockers as of Q2 2015, and this figure represents a 48% increase compared to the previous year (NY Post, 2016).

This alarming trend is a serious threat to the world of digital marketing, and advertisers will need to prepare accordingly. There are a number of ways that marketers can overcome this problem, and advertisers should explore all of their options before determining what approach will work best for their situation. Here are three of the most popular strategies that every advertiser should strongly consider when deciding what direction to take with their digital advertising in the coming years:

1. Direct Consumer Messaging

One of the options available to digital marketers is to directly address the issue by asking users to uninstall ad blocking software when it is detected. This approach can be effective because it gives the user control over the situation, which will create a better user experience and increase consumer satisfaction.

However, the obvious drawback is the fact that many users will continue to block ads even when they’re politely asked to stop. The resulting loss in revenue can add up quickly, and this caveat is something that most businesses/websites/advertisers cannot afford to ignore. Globally in 2015, internet publishers lost $21 billion in revenue due to ad blocking, so many marketers favor other approaches that offer less risk when it comes to losing ad revenue.

2. Circumvention

This strategy involves the use of marketing software that allows advertisers to show ads even when ad blockers are being used. This option will generate more ad revenue than the direct messaging approach a large majority of the time, so it’s no surprise that circumvention has become a very popular strategy among digital marketers in recent years.

The promise of more revenue is very attractive, but it doesn’t come without a cost. By showing ads to people who have already actively decided to install ad blocking software, users may feel deceived or ignored by a business/website/advertiser. This reaction will definitely have a negative impact on user experience, and ultimately cause lower returns when it comes to sales, leads, visits, likes, or any other marketing objective an advertiser might have.

3. Content Blocking

A third option is to block the content that users are trying to access unless they agree to turn off or uninstall their ad blocking software. This strategy represents the middle of the road compared to the two previous strategies, and initial tests suggest that it can be successful: Forbes reported a 42.3% success rate during a recent experiment with content blocking (Forbes, 2016).

Content blocking offers less risk when it comes to lost revenue because ads will still show to some users, and it should have less of a negative impact on user experience compared to circumvention. This happy medium sounds great on paper, but if only a fraction of advertisers and publishers choose to employ this method, it will likely prove itself to be ineffective.

If a user can easily access the content they’re looking for somewhere else, content blocking will simply lead to higher bounce rates and less engagement with the business/website/app doing the blocking. On the other hand, if enough advertisers and publishers use this strategy alongside one another, people will be more inclined to disable ad blockers in order to access the content they’re looking for.

Every situation is unique, and each advertiser will need to find the solution that works best for them, but the three strategies outlined above are certainly a good place to start. Moving forward, these strategies will likely play an important role for any digital advertisers who hope to combat the inevitable growth of ad blocking.

The bottom line is clear: ad blockers are here to stay, and they do represent a major challenge to the world of digital advertising. Nevertheless, timely innovation and adaptation can offer digital marketers across the globe the opportunity to survive and thrive in this rapidly evolving environment.

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