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Vox Pop: the future of mobile vs. ad blocking

Recent research from Adobe and anti-ad blocking firm Page Fair, has set the cost of ad blocking at $40billion for publishers by the end of 2016. Ad blocking software has been on the rise, with more and more European audiences likely to block ads on their content hubs costing publishers a fortune in loss of commercial content. The advent of mobile ad blocking, which is used increasingly in India and China, will change the way advertisers reach out to audiences when they are on the move. The Drum Network has asked a few of its members how they feel the rise of ad blocking will affect advertising via mobile- and what they propose as a solution.

Ad blocking

Dominic Lidgett, PPC manager, Strawberry

As users, we now have to accept we can't have our cake and eat it. I think the answer probably lies in a mixture of smarter "for me" advertising, smarter user interface design to make them less "pop-uppy" and smarter content that a user is happy to pay for but a micro-payment as opposed to the off-putting commitment of subscribing to a particular channel/service at a larger value. As marketers, we need to tread carefully as Ad Blockers can block more than just ads - they can block tracking codes too. This would have wider implications on reporting, planning and spend from a variety of channels...

Charlotte McMurray, digital performance director, Silverbean

Ad blocking will affect mobile advertising in the same way as any disruptive technology affects an established industry. Those who survive will do so because they adapted their business models to suit, and those who are unwilling or unable to adapt will suffer. I think the industry response to ad blocking so far has been very unhelpful - characterising visitors using ad blockers as “lost” revenue that’s somehow “owed” to advertisers and publishers is presumptuous, and bordering on disrespectful of the consumers who keep them in business.

There’s no mystery behind people’s reasons for blocking online advertising - there’s a significant amount of very poor quality, intrusive advertising out there (particularly on mobile), and the rest doesn’t add enough value to make up for the inconvenience of having to endure it.

As an industry the only reasonable response is to accept that users prefer not to have marketing messages shoved down their throats 24/7, and that this is not an unreasonable preference on their part. We need to come up with more sophisticated methods of communicating marketing messages, and alternative methods of funding content-based websites.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think the shift is going to force developments in alternative subscription and funding models, as well as a greater understanding amongst consumers and advertisers that they’re participating in a value exchange.

I strongly believe that necessity is the mother of invention, and in the long term the introduction of ad-blocking to mobile will be positive for users, advertisers and publishers alike. However, like all disruptive shifts there are likely to be high-profile casualties along the way.

Edwin Kua, senior art director, Invisible Artists Sydney

Will it change the face of advertising and will it slow down the output of it? No. Ads are here to stay, and for as many reasons we could think of to hate or loathe them, they do pay for alot of our ‘free’ services such as Facebook, Google, etc. Now, personally I think, people who figures out how to block ads – value their ‘space’ more.

They could be slightly more tech savvy than most. They are probably more white collared type. They could be a young demographic. They could be the high-hanging fruit that could taste better. One thing most people could agree to would be the distaste for interstitial ads. No one likes them. I think the answer is to create better/cleverer ads. The answer lies with us (content creators/advertisers/marketers).

AdBlocker is quite literally the ‘No Junk mail’ sticker of the digital age. Once you slap on a ‘No Junk mail’ sticker on your mailbox – you literally lose all forms of retail communication. A real example: A friend asked me ‘hey, Did you go to the motorbike gear sale at Aldi last week?’ I replied, ‘No, I didn’t hear about it’. Why? because I had a ‘No Junk Mail’ label on my mailbox. Very similar to Ad Blocker. It’s an all or nothing approach.

Paul Phillips, head of media, Hunterlodge Advertising

The biggest challenge to advertisers will be in reaching and engaging Millennials – a cohort that is already disengaged with traditional offline channels and is clearly putting up the barricades in digital environments too. In June, a YouGov study revealed that 34% of 18-34 year olds are already using ad blocking software and, with the emergence of that software on Smartphones – devices which, TouchPoints informs us, 76% of Millennials “could not imagine life without” – there is little doubt that the majority will make use of it there too: 66% of 18-34 year olds would “stop watching ads if [they] had the technology”.

Clearly, with the right demo- and geographical targeting – and with a measured approach to remarketing (deploying messages that move the narrative on and sensible frequency capping) – we can make mobile advertising palatable.

But to keep the channel open, big conversations need to happen fast: the biggest ad makers need to engage with the biggest publishers to agree on the kind of ads they think would be acceptable and possible on mobile. But smaller conversations need to happen too: brands should engage with, and educate, their most loyal consumers on the utility of mobile advertising. And if done in a compelling way, then maybe those consumers will use those devices for their primary purpose: to spread the word.

Sam Poote, senior digital account manager, RBH

The Adobe/Pagefair study surveyed 400 US respondents as to why they may install an ad blocker in the future (this only represents 0.0002% of the 181m total desktop users reported to use a blocker). The top two reasons were ‘quality of ads’ and ‘misuse of personal data to personalise’, which I translate as either incessant or creepy. I think the ultimate problem is that people feel they have a better experience of the web without ads. They don’t add enough value. This is extremely tricky to improve on mobile, a massive problem for publishers and advertisers.

Mobile ads are still evolving. The more traditional banner format has always been tricky for creative – it’s harder to convey the product offering, USP with a solid call-to-action in such a small space, and has perhaps been better for general brand recognition. Many advertisers look to utilise other standard formats, such as the trusty MPU, as who’d have thought it - bigger ads generally results in more clicks, but as an industry, publishers and advertisers need to perfect the balance between view-ability and not creating the tipping point to push a user to install a blocker.

The user has an annoying ten day period of their worst nightmare - incessant and creepy ads. They get annoyed and install an ad blocker. It just takes one advertiser or one site for this decision to be made.

That said, there is no solution at this time. Advertisers and publishers have a short period of time to make sure that we’re being reasonable at our end. Net neutrality is such an important bedrock of the internet but it’s something that needs to work both ways between companies and consumers.

Rebekah MacKay Miller, MD, trnd

If people want to block your ads, you’ve got a bigger problem than ad blocking software. Advertisers need to think more creatively so people actively want to engage. If you’re serious about putting people at the heart of your campaigns, you’ll respect the fact that some of those people don’t want to see your ads, and then work out what to do about it.

Removing ad blocking software isn’t the answer. Stop trying to show people stuff they don’t want to see, and find a better way to interact. Collaborate with people, rather than marketing at them. People are generally pretty receptive to working with brands if they’re approached in the right way. Listen to what they want from you, and talk to them on their terms. This is easier than it sounds: technology and community platforms mean you can do this at scale.

We need a shift in thinking on the open web model if the ad-based model is dead. Newspapers are having to do it, the music industry’s having to do it, and publishing’s having to do it. If people want to block ads, fine. Let’s collaborate as an industry and find something that people want, to replace it. Stop flogging a dead horse, and change the terms of marketing.

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Naomi Taylor

Naomi Taylor is editorial account manager at The Drum Network, covering members' news, insights and publications.

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