Adblock Strategies: The Marketing Struggle to Reach Consumers

Mobile ad prohibition conceptIn the battle against Adblock, businesses need all the help they can get.

The consumer backlash against online ads is well underway.

We’ve discussed proper inbound marketing in a world powered by Adblock in previous posts, but the truth is, it isn’t easy no matter how you look at it. Not every business has inbound strategies at its disposal, and the digital environment is moving more and more towards a state of anti-advertisement and privacy.

Heck, even infamous government whistleblower Edward Snowden recommended that all users run Adblock:

“Everybody should be running Adblock software, if only from a safety perspective …”

Let’s be honest here—we get where Adblock users are coming from. Ads these days can be obtrusive. They’re often autoplay videos that (at their best) are annoying and (at their worst) can slow down our machines and even create security concerns for our devices.

The Marketing Struggle

Naturally, Adblock is an attractive choice for consumers who want to enjoy an uninterrupted browsing experience, but it’s a little tougher on businesses, site owners, and marketers. Many of us rely on ad revenue to keep our businesses afloat.

Plenty of us use ads to make a happy buck: eMarketer reports that total digital ad spend in 2017 is projected to reach over $77 billion—comprising 38 percent of total ad spend of all mediums.

And there’s no denying that it works. According to a recent report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, digital advertising revenues in the first half of 2016 reached a record-breaking $32.7 billion in the U.S. alone.

With these numbers at stake, we can see that Adblock is a problem. What now?

Fortunately, businesses aren’t without options in the battle against Adblock. Let’s review a few options business owners have to make their messages heard despite the walls of code blocking their voice.

Finding a Middle Ground

No business wants to battle with its valued customer base. As such, finding an Adblock middle ground is a good way to try to appease both sides.

1. Restrict their access to content

One way to incentivize users to disable Adblock is to block their access to material. Big-brand sites like Forbes have famously implemented this strategy. It’s simple, effective, and content can be re-enabled if users disable Adblockers on the page (known as “whitelisting”). With all these pros, it does seem like a gentle compromise for two sides with competing goals.

2. Team up with “acceptable ad” programs

 Consider partnering with “acceptable ad” programs that offer a moderated ad experience for users. The creators of Adblock actually have guidelines for what’s considered an acceptable ad, and if your ads or ad publishers adhere to these guidelines, this is an easy way to get through.

3. Use paywalls/ad-light experiences

This strategy involves giving users access to a less-obtrusive ad experience in exchange for a nominal fee. Sites like The New York Times have experimented with this option, and while its effectiveness remains to be seen, it is an option for businesses with subscription-based business models.

4. Beat them back with more ads

Okay, this one is a little combative, but it’s possible to re-insert ads to get around pesky ad blockers. These types of programs were designed by engineers who understand well the impact ads have on the digital economy, and they work as a slip counter for brands that are losing ad revenue each day.

Note: This option will not make you popular with your users, despite your inherent right to push online display ads.

Making Peace with Adblock

So how effective are these strategies?

Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to say. Many anti-Adblock techniques are hard to track and hard to measure. Tracking intent behind each consumer action is a common challenge for marketers, and this is no exception. There just isn’t enough data available to say that a member subscribed because he/she wanted only an ad-free user experience.

However, there’s some good news: Consumers don’t actually have a blanket hatred of ads. Research by MarketingSherpa via Adweek found only eight percent of consumers didn’t want to receive advertisements, with the rest noting they were okay with ads if they followed their delivery preferences.

Now, businesses going through ad publishers may not be able to customize every ad they post on their site, but overall marketing trends remain the same. The more you know about your market, the better you can tailor your site to meet their needs.

Winning Despite Adblock

The bottom line is this: Businesses need ads. Users don’t want to see ads. And as of 2017, we still haven’t found a great way to meet consumers halfway on the issue. Adblock isn’t going anywhere, and trying to beat it at its own game may be a losing battle.

If possible, follow established digital inbound marketing practices to get noticed in the age of Adblock, and if not, learn as much as about your market as you can to create content that they’ll be willing to sit through ads to see.

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