To block ads or not to block ads? That is the question. As the hot topic in the digital media world, ad blocking software raises questions surrounding what role it will play for advertisers, publishers and consumers. While I think the hype surrounding this topic is slightly exaggerated, I do feel it will have profound impact for online advertising, particularly on mobile devices.
First, a little background: Ad blockers have been around for years, but it wasn’t until the release of Apple’s iOS9 that the discussion went mainstream. Ad blockers provide Internet users with the opportunity to remove ads displayed within web browsers. This includes search, display and video ads. Consumers are growing tired of slow-loading content and automatic pre-roll videos which has prompted more frequent downloads of this ad blocking software. There is no denying that ad blockers provide a better user experience for consumers but we can’t forget the benefits that ads provide. Remember, it’s advertising that keeps the Internet free. Also, consumers often forget digital ads are targeted, making them aware of products and services that are relevant to them.
Publishers have put up the biggest fight against ad blockers mainly because ads are their top source of revenue. Advertising also helps publishers identify who their target audiences are and provides them with key insights into what users are looking for. This allows publishers to create more relevant content on their site that appeals to their readers.
Ad blockers mean advertisers need to be smarter and more creative in their marketing techniques. We can expect to see digital advertising become more expensive and harder to purchase. This shouldn’t be a huge concern for businesses that are willing to adapt and be innovative. Some advertisers will notice a significant impact on their mobile campaigns, and other may see no difference at all.
While the increase in usage of ad blockers will likely impact some advertisers, the most important thing to take into account is that majority of it will only be on mobile devices. When a mobile user has an ad blocker installed and they search for a keyword, no paid advertising will appear no matter how well the campaign is optimized. Ad blockers have to be installed separately on desktops to be effective. Another important point to keep in mind is that just because this ad blocking software is available doesn’t mean all users are going to radically change their behavior and run out to download it. The majority of mobile users will not change their patterns or take the time to download ad-blocking software.
We saw a similar reaction years ago when cable companies began to offer DVR services. Advertisers worried no one would see their television ads and in essence created a shift in viewing with the rise of streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu. This same outcome will take place with digital advertising. The marketplace will figure out an effective solution to minimize the potential impact of ad blocking.