Ad Blockers: How they Work and How they Can Harm Your Business

How much do people hate online advertising? The answer is A LOT. Consider that the average display ad clickthrough rate hovers around 0.06 percent, and that 33 percent of internet users find them completely intolerable, and you get the gist.

Enter ad blockers. Worldwide, ad blocking grew by 41 percent between 2014 and 2015, and that growth will continue as more options become available. Heck, even Apple has supported them in the release of their newest operating system (not without controversy, of course).

How Ad Blockers Work

Ad blockers do pretty much what their name suggests: They block online or display advertising. And they’re pretty easy to use. Simply download an application (like plugins or browser extensions) that block and/or remove digital ads, and voila, no more ads. Some apps will replace those ads with other content, and others just leave blank spaces or broken links where the ad would have been.

It’s easy to see their appeal. By using an ad blocker, users effectively increase page load times, improve battery life, and protect privacy. But the appeal ends there when it comes to marketing.

How Ad Blockers Can Harm Your Business

Digital marketers rely heavily on analytics, both to determine what’s working and what’s not in their marketing strategies and their digital real estate. And ad blocking can have an impact on that type of data, meaning the ability for marketers to measure and improve online experiences may end up compromised.

Another huge way that ad blockers can harm your business is more obvious. Your display advertising won’t be seen. And with your average American now spending more time online than with all other media combined—including TV—you’re looking at missed opportunities by the boatload.

If you’re not quite convinced, let’s take a minute to break that boatload down, shall we? Globally, as of 2015, some 200 million plus web surfers had already installed ad blocking software. And, as if the news couldn’t get any worse, according to a recent article, “People who use ad blockers are more likely to be the types of high-value consumers marketers aim to reach: Young and well off.”

Remember those loyal, high-buying Millennials  we talked about recently? Well, those are exactly the “young, well off” audience who are most annoyed by online advertising, and one of the biggest reasons for that comes down to trust. They simply don’t trust display advertising, and trust is huge for the Millennial set.

What This Means For You

It’s predicted that mobile advertising will represent 72 percent of all US digital ad spending in just a few short years, so digital advertising isn’t going to go away any time soon. And there’s still controversy raging around ad blockers, with digital publishers being affected to the tune of millions of dollars in lost revenue. In fact, many publishers (and we’re talking sites like The New York Times, Wired, and GQ) are cracking down on people who use ad blockers by denying access to their content. Marketers, obviously, don’t have that option, but they do have other options.

Revisit your digital ads, and ensure they are interesting and eye catching, instead of bland and boring. A recent HubSpot report found that “A majority of our respondents …agree that most online ads today don’t look professional and are insulting to their intelligence (63% and 56%, respectively).” Yikes! Unprofessional and insulting are two things you never want to be. Oh, and definitely eliminate annoying pop ups.

Also, keep doing what you’re doing with your social media engagement, use of influencers and word-of-mouth marketing, and create trustworthy, valuable, and shareable content. Transparent, human digital experiences will go a long way to keeping you in the game, especially when it comes to attracting the massive and very important Millennial cohort.

The bottom line is, ad-blocking is here, and while it won’t be going away, all is not lost. It’s up to marketers to adjust their marketing strategies in order to adapt to this new reality. Sooner, rather than later.


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