Take Heart – Ad Blockers Are Not Invincible

The mobile revolution has changed many things, and digital advertising is one of them—it’s all about banners no longer. Today we have remarkable new opportunities to reach mobile users with just the right message at just the right time, and even in just the right place. The mobile platform makes it possible—and essential—for advertisers to offer their customers high-quality, highly relevant content. But as the laws of motion inevitably demand, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For digital advertising, ad blocking is the reaction. The power of ad blockers has been growing steadily, but advertisers still have the power to engage their audiences by making strong creative and strategic choices.

The growth of ad-blocking since 2013 is striking: up 48 percent in the U.S. and 35 percent in Europe last year; up 41 percent year-over-year globally, according to a recent PageFair and Adobe report. During Q2 2015, 16 percent of U.S. online users blocked ads, bringing the number of monthly active users to 45 million. In Europe, the number of monthly active users rose to 77 million during Q2 2015. That’s how many Internet users installed free, open-source ad-blocking extensions and browsers to put up walls between their browsers and known ad servers, effectively blocking ads in almost any format, on all websites. The revenue lost to blocked ads during 2015 is a call-to-action in itself: $21.9 billion.

“Ad blocking is endemic only because online advertising has become so invasive that hundreds of millions of people are willing to take matters into their own hands,” Sean Blanchfield of PageFair concludes. “To sustainably solve ad blocking, we must treat these users with respect, not force feed them the popovers, interstitials and video ads that they are trying to get rid of.”

In search of creative ads that users might actually enjoy, mobile advertisers have started a trend toward mobile video, which is now the fastest-growing digital advertising medium in the U.S. Native ads are still going strong as well, thanks to the idea that they’re not as jarring to users as typical banner ads. They appear in a context that makes sense to the viewer, offering information that’s relevant to what’s on the screen right now (an ad for sweaters, say, appearing next to editorial content on fall fashion trends). Optimize your ads for relevance, and you can count on a better response rate.

The buzz belongs to mobile video and native ads right now, but that’s no reason to abandon the banner altogether. They may seem retro, but banners are still effective for driving brand awareness, and a good choice when frequency is one of your objectives. Just make sure they’re visually compelling, with clear messaging, and concisely written, Bob Arnold of Google Media Lab advises, for maximum impact.

The reality is that ad blockers are quite probably here to stay. They’re quick and easy to deploy, and mobile users like the sense of control they offer. But they’re not invincible. Mobile advertisers who are committed to using the latest technology and valuing creativity can react effectively to ad blockers, and stay a step ahead of the laws of motion.

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