Ad blocking is about far more than a few intrusive ads.
For the past decade, marketers have been defining new media in one simple term; “Content is King.” So why has the same not applied to digital advertising? Poor quality and sheer quantity of advertising has a major, negative impact on brands. All one has to do to see how bad things have become is to watch the alarming growth in ad blocking.
According to Statista, in 2020 more than 26.4% of all internet users in the United States have an ad blocker and the number continues to rise. But generalized statistics mask an even uglier truth. Depending on the demographics of a brand’s target audience, the use of ad blockers can rise dramatically, in some cases, to over 50%. If you are a brand and your target audience is college-educated, millennials, and tech-savvy, your digital advertising spend is unlikely reaching half your target audience, whether through direct buy advertising with premium publishers or worse using programmatic advertising platforms. Over the past three years, programmatic open exchange platforms have butchered advertising quality at the expense of quantity, serving disruptive ads that are totally at odds with a brand’s desire to offer positive consumer experiences. At the same time, an array of additional threats have spawned from programmatic, ranging from fraud, malware, to quality brands appearing on shady websites and new regulatory frameworks sweeping across the world.
What has been overlooked in the ubiquitous paradigm is that when it comes to advertising, there is no bloodline to determine a monarch. It is the consumer and their actions that ‘elect’ their own king.
Out of the darkness
So what are brands to do? In the early days of digital advertising, consumers were ripe for any ad and any link, right side ad or piece of spam that got them to the latest diet pill or hula-hoop. They were like hunter-gatherers on the lookout for any novel prey. In turn, competition and advances in technology brought needed sophistication to the marketplace.
But this soon became an annoyance as the Ad Tech industry moved into top gear. As consumers became more discriminating, an out and out war took hold against poor quality advertising, cookies and tracking that not only interrupted the consumer’s attention, but completely and thoroughly violated their privacy and, in many cases, their security. Enter the ad blockers. Consumers became the decision-makers and masters of choice in their own busy lives. To reach this significant and ever-growing audience, brands, through their digital channels must meet the needs of the consumer, on their terms with full awareness, transparency and respect for their needs.
The new truth brands need to know
Before brands can truly address their total market audience. They need to understand the fundamental basics of digital advertising as it pertains to the blocked web:
Firstly, when publishers tell you their ad-block rate is only 12 or 15% be suspicious for three reasons. With Satista’s own research, the number is most likely at least 27%, or worse for certain demographics, unless there’s something exceptional about the publisher and their web content.
Thirdly and equally important, if they say they are using tools to bring resolution to their ad block audiences, be advised that all methods used to date either don’t work as is the case with asking consumers to whitelist the site or blatantly forcing ads on unsuspecting users. Forcing ads demonstrates a complete failure of technology and degrades brand value. Whitelisting by itself is logically counterintuitive to ad blocking because when one asks a consumer to whitelist a site, you’re not only asking them to endure the ads they wanted to block but also asking them to expose themselves to invasions of privacy as well as security threats. You’re asking them to revert to the exact thing they were running from in the first place. If you think this is a good solution, you’ve missed the point of ad blocking.
Very bad news for the publisher in lost advertising revenue and worse for the brand spending misallocated budget that does not reach a huge swath of their target audience.
The new 2.0 advertising landscape
At Adtoniq, we have spent years researching this modern digital landscape and the burgeoning evolution of ethics in online advertising. We found, along with other researchers, that the vast majority of ad block users are willing to give up their ad-free experience for websites and brands they care about as long as the ads are not annoying and publishers are transparent and respectful in their approach. However, then the question was how to bridge the different needs of brands, publishers and ad block audiences to achieve this end.
As has been seen throughout history the answer to ad blocking we concluded rested on a simple, inspirational premise; that publishers need to offer permission-based engagement to simultaneously connect with consumers on behalf of brands, build mutual respect that in turn builds brand value and increases revenue. We subsequently built a permission-based ad network to prove our assumptions. The network embraces the psychology and learning from best practices in what is acceptable to consumers: the power of high-quality engagements, the importance of giving consumers options and making their lives easier while respecting them throughout. We offer ad block users the choice to opt-in to see ads and unlike whitelisting, we make their acceptance frictionless with “One Click Consent”(™). We do not track, gather data on ad block users, behaviorally target or otherwise infringe on their privacy.
The results were counter-intuitive
By giving control to ad block users, offering them choices to opt-in or not, making it frictionless to give permission, has had a dramatic impact on their behavior. What makes the results so counterintuitive is that we are seeing results from ad blocking audiences that far exceed those seen from consumers that don’t use ad blockers. We are currently delivering 5-10x higher than industry average click-through-rates (CTR) with opt-in rates ranging between 50-75% of total ad blocked traffic, significantly increasing reach.
Many companies have tried to solve for ad blockers and many have failed. Success clearly requires a deep technical and psychological alignment between the needs of the advertiser, digital publishers and the consumer experience. It is certain and proven that treating ad block consumers with choice, respect and transparency, is the only way for brands to maximize advertising reach to a substantial premium audience unavailable to them today.