No one denies that ad blocking is shaking up the digital ad universe. Ad blocking is estimated to cost publishers a hefty $21.8 billion in 2015, according to the latest report from PageFair and Adobe. There are now 198 million active ad block users in the world. Since last year alone, ad blocking grew by 41 percent globally.
Now that a mobile ad blocker appears to be imminent, advertisers and publishers alike are understandably worried. If ads are blocked on mobile, it means everyone who uses mobile ads to generate revenue loses—from media publishers to bloggers to ad juggernauts like Google.
Some even worry that ad blockers could “decimate the free web,” because the revenue loss would prevent content creators from continuing to create.
Instead of naysaying the rise of ad blockers, marketers should be more interested in understanding why so many users install them. Simply put: People dislike ads when they disrupt their digital experience, whether on desktop or mobile.
Part of the problem stems from the lack of ad customization by platform. Rather than offering something unique to mobile, most banner ads are simply replicas of print ads or billboards, miniaturized for tiny mobile screens—not exactly content that users will be itching to digest.
Secondly, advertisers want to be intrusive—the very thing that users hate. “There’s legitimate blame on the part of the industry,” said PageFair’s CEO Sean Blanchfield in Mobile Marketing Magazine. “You look at the quality of ads right now, and it’s a fast race to the bottom in terms of how much you can interrupt the user experience.”
For advertisers, one solution to the ad block conundrum is to seek whitelisted status from ad blockers themselves.
But content may offer a more promising avenue. People desire branded content, as long as it’s not disruptive. PageFair and Adobe found that 67 percent of ad block users are “somewhat willing” to view text and static display ads, but intrusive ad formats like pop-up ads were resoundingly rejected by 83 percent.
The rise of the mobile ad blocker could usher in a new era of more effective mobile content strategy, one that facilitates content discovery so that users receive the content they actually want to see.
Marriott offers one example of what a content-discovery-driven world could look like. The brand has pitched its mobile content strategy to influencers like travel vlogger Jack Harries who developed three short films from locations where Marriott has a presence and distributed the Marriott-branded final product via his YouTube channel (and to his four million subscribers).
On SnapChat, Marriott hand-picked influencers to travel to places where Marriot has a presence, sharing their adventures on Snapchat and their personal platforms, the Content Marketing Institute reports.
Mobile technology, with its ability to target content based on characteristics like location, could up the ante even further. On mobile, social content, push notifications, beacons, and in-app content offer new channels to reach consumers in ways an annoying pop-up ad never could. While the door may be closing on digital ads, on mobile, content could open a window.
For more insight on engagement through content, check out Skyword’s webinar on new digital media strategies to increase audience loyalty.