Introduction to Ad Blockers
How many times you have heard people say, there is nothing to read in the newspapers or magazines, they are full of ads. Haven’t you seen TV viewers getting upset over too much ads coming in between a popular programme.
Many people conveniently forget that their favourite newspaper is available for six or ten Indian Rupees only because the advertisers are paying for it as readers pay only 5% of the production cost. This applies to television as well- producing a programme and airing it is costly and it can be beamed free of cost only if advertisers are there to pay for showing their ads in between popular programs.
It may also be noted that creatively produced advertising is not about sales alone but informing and educative as well.
In the web world too, until a few years ago, visitors had to see ad images popping up either to cover the whole page or appearing on top, side or bottom of a page and had to close it to get a better view of the contents of the page. Such pop-up ads became a trend as normal display ads did not get enough clicks to justify the costs involved.
The advent of ad blockers
The internet users on desktop, laptop and mobile have the option to block the advertisements by installing ad blocker apps. The popularity of it can be gauged from the data that there are 22 million ad bockers that are active now preventing ads from opening up when users surf the web.
The primary aim of internet is to enable a comfortable browsing experience for users and therefore Google chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox all provide the facility to block ads. Ad blockers have caused $22 bn loss for publishers annually even as marketers are trying new ways the reach their target audience.
Steps to deal with ad blockers
Here are some steps to deal with ad blockers:
1. Make ads offer driven or incentive driven
If you look at the print media ads, most of them are information oriented with the aim of developing a brand. In the digital world, people are looking for information on a particular topic or issue and are distracted by ads that try to promote themselves. On the other hand if the advertisements provide discounts, offers not listed anywhere including the company’s website and if it expires in a day or two, readers will be tempted to click on it to avail the benefits.
In other words, marketers need to use the desktop, mobile internet to deliver offers, discounts or even free coupons to incentivize readers to viewing ads.
2. Create personalised content
In a newspaper ad, targeted promotion is not possible except perhaps n a geographical basis but in the web it is possible to deliver personalized content on the basis of analysis of consumer behavior, habits, spending, buying, interests, hobbies and previous history of transactions with the company and so on. Big data analysis and tools are now enabling such a possibility. If a customer of a two-wheeler has searched online for the most attractive vehicle loan or personal loan, he can be targeted with a special offer that has zero processing fees and a 0.25% discount in interest rates. If a consumer is seen searching for a mobile phone in the price range of 20,000 Indian Rupees (INR) to Rs 32,000, best offers in that range can be communicated . For this person, there is no point in seeing a pop up ad for mobiles that cost 6000 to 12,000 rupees.
In the web and mobile platforms, the opportunity to convert to sales will be lost without a clear call-to-action. “Register, Accept, Buy, ‘Book your Seat’ , ‘Order Now’, ‘Enrol’ are all inviting customers to directly act on the ad.
4. Align with Ad blockers to be in the whitelist
Adblock Plus has the major share of the ad blockers market while Adblock is the second most popular one apart from Privacy Badger, Ghostery and several others. Some of them work on no-profit basis while Adblock Plus earns huge money from publisers and browser companies by levying a charge for whitelisting ads. This perhaps explains why article ads and native ads continue to appear even in cases where ad blockers are installed on site. Adblock has announced it will also launch a whitelist of advertisers.
5. Work with publishers who disallow ad blockers
Some sites or publishers such as Forbes remind the reader that ad blockers have been installed and they could lose out on valuable offers from the company if the blockage is not removed. Previously, many sites allowed access to content only if cookies were installed. Now publishers are refusing access to a site if readers are not willing to remove ad blocker plus from their browers. The Washington Post denied access to content unless their ads were white listed or readers subscribed to their newsletter. Bild, the German newspaper refused access its site unless ad blockers were removed.
6. Publishers may work out the YouTube model
In YouTube videos, content can be accessed only after seeing an ad for a few seconds and giving the viewer the option to press the Skip button to begin watching the video he or she wanted to see. Likewise, in articles, publishers could place an ad that is compulsory for the reader to see for a few seconds before they it either dissolves or can be skipped.
7. Premium content without ads, free content with ads
The cable television industry came up with a solution to its ads problem by having two set of subscription for users- one is premium HD (High Definition) with higher subscription rates but devoid of ads while the normal subscription prices were lower but viewers are exposed to ads. It is possible perhaps to have websites – one subscription driven and the other free. The subscription driven website will feature no ads but there will be an access fee while the free content will feature ads to sustain the site. This is also called Freemium model for the web.
Some publishers /marketers have already tried different methods to over the ad blockers issue- The Guardian requests supporters to pay to maintain the site, whileRetailMeNot.com, the leading coupon, promo code site hosts its own ads and gains referral income for directing business to online retailers. It works even in browsers installed with ad blockers. Reuters has run ad units in its site as part of a whitelisted program. Wired, the technology magazine doesn’t allow users to read content if ad blocker is installed or if they are not willing to uninstall it, they should pay a small fee for access to the site.
8. Try social media advertising
According to recent data, there are about 5.2 bn mobile users world wide constituting 73% of global population. On the other hand, the number of internet users are only 2.8 billion. The number of people accessing social media through mobile is also rising and they are immune from ad blockers. It is possible to boost certain posts to appear in News Feed or as side bar advertisements or indirectly promote business through purchasing likes.
9. Expose more to mobile and mobile apps
Before starting to worry about the impact of ad blockers in mobile, it is very important to analyse the existing campaigns and see how much conversion is taking place. If there is reasonable return on investment (ROI), then there is no need for immediate panic. As of now ad blockers have been implemented only in iPhones, iOS 9 and iPads. Google Playstore has removed ad blockers for download although Google allows installation of ad blockers in browser.
Mobile apps could feature an ad which the user has to mandatorily see before downloading it on his mobile.
10. Advertorials,native advertising and making pages lighter
It is possible to bypass ad blockers with text oriented advertorials and native advertising that aligns closely to the topic the web visitor is searching or viewing. Many publishers are thinking of overcoming the ad blockers crisis by being innovative rather than throw their hands up in despair. Or requesting users to turn of ad blockers but all publishers haven’t been successful in those attempts.
Some publishers are moving away from providers of adtech platforms for the open web as they are more prone to the ill effects of adblocking. Instead they are moving to newer platforms such as Instant Articles in Facebook and Apple’s news platform.
The main reason why ad blockers are preferred is due to the fact that pages with ads takes awfully long time to load. If a typical ads-driven page has 20 MB to download, without ads it may drop one tenth to 2 MB which makes browsing and downloads faster on both desktop and mobile.
Publishers are working on new technology platforms that reduce the data load associated with an ad and making it lighter, less troublesome to viewing for readers.
Dealing with ad blockers is an issue both for marketers and publishers as well as their business growth and their future depend on it. It could be possible that ad blockers emerged because there was a genuine need felt by the users to get rid of unwanted ads appearing or popping up in mobile and web pages but one way to counter them is to give value to readers by giving offers and discounts as mentioned earlier in the article. It is true that ad blockers are a hindrance to freedom of choice on the part of the internet user on what they should see as it blocks them from content even if it is an advertisement.
For publishers, it may not be possible to block content if ad blockers are installed as it could turn away readers to other sites that offer content even when ad blockers are installed. It may work with a publisher who already has a good following and brand reputation. Some analysts have suggested a method of gaining sympathy from the readers by appealing to them that content is being given to you free because of the advertisers. It is an implicit agreement as in newspapers and magazines- Readers consume content and advertisers pay for it. However, this appeal was not found successful in over hundreds of sites where it was carried.
The growth in ad blockers is due to two major reasons- one internet users wanted an uninterrupted browsing experience and content that is most relevant to them. On the other hand, there were money to be made in adblocking by whitelisting ads and getting paid for it from publishers.
Perhaps, it’s time for marketers and publishers to turn innovative not only in content, design and delivery but also in how ads are positioned in in web and mobile. If readers are so disgusted with conventional type of display ads, pop-ups, interstitials, and have a dialogue with users as to what levels of advertising is tolerable.
There is a bigger issue involved in adblocking- the freedom of speech. So far the regulatory bodies or the State haven’t interfered in it but it is high time the marketers, advertisers and the publishing industry rally to gain regulatory support for taming the ad blockers activity. The millions of net users also need to be educated on the fact that information,data or news doesn’t come free at all, somebody is paying for it. By blocking the ads, you are virtually preventing access to content and also starving companies who work hard to deliver it.
On the other hand the web being a democratic medium, users are entitled to better browsing experiences. Bandwidth costs and data access on mobile is also getting costlier day by day and they need to optimize on their costs too.
Delivering value is most important not only for the brand but for the ads that promote it also. That is emerging as the new paradigm in digital marketing and how soon marketers and publishers understand its dynamics, the better it will be for them. The era of heavy mega-pixel, irrelevant ads may be over in the cyber and mobile world and it could as well be replaced by more personalized, relevant and targeted content that reflects the interests, aspirations and needs of the consumer.
Here are some articles that will help you to get more detail about the Ad blockers so just go through the link.