Dealing with ad blockers: make a little lemonade

October 1, 2015 | By

Dealing with ad blockers: make a little lemonade

Publishers – and specifically, the publishing business model – have been the subject of much recent conversation related to ad blocking technologies. And it’s not just a philosophical discussion: according to BlueConic data, our publishers see anywhere from 15% to 25% of PC users blocking ads. This is serious business! We’re planning to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends and numbers we’re seeing, but in the meantime, for those affected, this is a situation to plan on dealing with indefinitely.

The furor is currently fueled by the release of iOS 9 and the advent of approved ad blocking software for the trove of billions of Apple devices in the world. Now, publishers and other companies dependent on ad revenue are scrambling to hedge against the unknown: how many users will take the steps required to block ads in their own browsers?

In mobile browsers, where overall ad blocking numbers appear low (our customers are reporting numbers in the 1% range), the journey is sure to be unpredictable. It does seem likely that this journey will include some sharp upwards trends, coinciding with advertising pushes, new releases, and embedded technology in browsers.

If a plan is in place before such an event, the impact to your business will be lessened. Bob Gilbreath of MediaPost had an excellent take on this, noting that “you cannot fight consumer demand” and that the best way forward is to “accept the challenge by improving.”

As a first step, we’ve been working with our partner customers to identify with near immediacy how many of their users are blocking ads, and how those rates differ across and within their web properties and user segments. By identifying if a person has an ad blocker turned on or not, our customers can then decide how to engage with them and how to repurpose that digital real estate.

The question that needs to be considered is: how can this information be used to drive better outcomes? It will, of course, differ based on organizational capabilities and urgency. For some inspiration, we’ve pulled a few options with clear lines to BlueConic customer use cases from an Ad Age article:

#1. Go Native
This is broad, where “native” relates to just about anything that ad blocking technology will leave alone. For some, that could mean trafficking like it’s the 90’s, while others will use the space to promote their brand, placing emphasis on deepening the relationship with their users. Ad Age makes an example of advertorials, or sponsored content.

#2. Ask for Sympathy
If done in an elegant way, some users will respond to requests to disable ad blocking for your sites, or to otherwise deepen their relationship with your business. The beauty of asking for sympathy is that you don’t need to do it constantly – it can be done in conjunction with native ads, and targeted/restricted to the point where it is not intrusive.. This can be done in-line on the site for anonymous users, while known users can be addressed more personally via email or other channels.

#3. Block Content
When profit margins on content are so closely tied to ad revenue, sometimes there is nothing left to do but prevent users from accessing content unless they’ve been exposed to the appropriate level of advertising a la the Washington Post who became the first major publisher to take this step. Nagging/blocking walls may abound in our future Web.

I’m looking forward to our webinar on October 13, where I will get to show how our ad blocking listener works! We’ll take a look at how to use the data too, taking examples from the above.

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