Rockstar Games buys up and dumps ads on Imgur to promote Red Dead Redemption

How do you reach audiences that don't want to be bothered?

Adblockers mean websites need to get creative with advertising. Imgur did just that, by partnering with Rockstar Games to remove all ads from the Imgur site for 24 hours.

On Friday (26 October), Imgur users were greeted with a one-time message across all platforms notifying them that there would be no advertising on the website of any kind, thanks to an ad buyout in partnership with Rockstar Games, which was promoting the release of ‘Red Dead Redemption 2.’

"We know that Imgur's community are some of the biggest users of ad blockers on the internet, which is why we've built an advertising and creative strategy that takes that into account and delivers value to our users," Bob Huseby, vice president of sales for Imgur, said in a company statement. "Rockstar understands this about the Imgur community and wanted to go beyond the expected to provide a brand experience that brings value to Imgurians. We believe that this approach will definitely resonate with our users."

Huseby told The Drum that roughly 60-70% of Imgur’s desktop users use ad blockers, and about 40-45% of all its traffic comes via desktop.

Imgur usually runs traditional, rotational ads and branded content pieces called promoted posts. The ad buyout aimed to engender some appreciation with a user base that’s predominantly male millennials, a demographic that “over-indexes” on using ad blockers, according to the company statement.

“We saw a lot of organic posts about Red Dead Redemption 2… [and] how excited users were that there were no ads at all. I think for the branded content ads, because they're served so infrequently, they tend to be fairly well received. But, traditionally, Imgur users don't like rotational media, so I think they were pleased to see there was no rotational media on Friday,” said Huseby.

While the ad buyout was seen as a success, it still comes with some risk.

“It's always nice to have fewer ads for users, but at the same time we're an ad-driven company and taking all the ads off the sites obviously has an opportunity cost to it,” Huseby said.

Huseby also pointed out the engineering challenge of delivery a one-time only notification across desktop and mobile platforms.

Imgur will run another ad buyout in partnership with Rockstar Games, and its agency of record Modco Media, sometime in December.

Huseby said Imgur’s advertising mission when working with brands is to “create branded content that is either humorous, socially aware, or informative to add value to the users who see it.” He added that the ad buyout with Rockstar Games was meant to serve as a “tip of the hat” to Imgur users who have supported the video game company.

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