Ad blocking: how can the advertising industry respond?

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It's been reported that ad blocking will be responsible for a $41.4bn loss of revenue globally over the next year. Apple's launch of iOS 9 changed the way branded content appears to Apple users which account for 14 per cent of web browsing. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has reported that 15 per cent of the British public use ad blockers. 73 per cent of people find ads interruptive, 55 per cent find online ads annoying and 46 per cent of people find online ads irrelevant. £3.98bn was spent on digital advertising in H1 2015 and display advertising grew by 27.5 per cent to £1.31bn.

I've read a lot of different things in my research for this article and there were two quotes that have stood out to me. The first was an Ogilvy & Mather tweet: "There's a responsibility on consumers to understand that without advertising the internet wouldn't be free." The second was a quote from Bloomberg Media MD, Adam Freeman: "If you work in the advertising industry there is something wrong if we are creating products that consumers are actively deciding to turn off."

Advertising is an important piece in the business landscape. It helps drive competition between businesses and encourages innovation. Our job as an industry is to create ads that are effective, provide value and engage consumers rather than interrupt them.

So what can we do as an industry about ad blocking? We could combat ad blocking technology with more technology, but I don't think that is the right or effective way to deal with the problem at hand. The IAB reported people block ads because they are annoying so if we use technology to let those ads through we are only going to further frustrate the consumer.

Here are the three ways that I think we can combat the issue of ad blocking:

Place the consumer first

People don't actually hate advertising. The Super Bowl in America pulls in millions of viewers just for the advertisements and think about the John Lewis Christmas advert. The British public waits excitedly for it each year. Consumers hate advertising that is interruptive, irrelevant and annoying. In order for advertising to be effective we must think about the consumer first. We must understand them. We must do our research, create personas and embody the people we are trying to advertise to. We must think about what they want to see, what they will find useful, what will add value for them and what will resonate with them. IAB found consumers will watch ads that engage them even if they are interruptive. The key is to provide consumers with a message and creative work that resonates and adds value.

Be in the right place at the right time

Once we understand the consumer we then can think about where and when we should place the message in front of them. We can deliver them a captivating and engaging experience. There is a fine line between adding value and being intrusive and disruptive. In a research piece called Familiarity, Frequency and Fine Lines it was found that 60 per cent of 18-34 year olds found online advertising exciting and different from other forms of advertising and 36 per cent are more likely than their elders to welcome information on their mobile that is relevant to their immediate location. We have seen success at Hunterlodge with our university clients by using geo-targeting to target students within a certain radius of feeder schools. It's all about the right demographic, the right targeting and the right channel.

Be the amazing, creative and innovative industry that we are

I don't believe that ad blocking is going to ruin the advertising industry. What I think it will challenge us to be the amazing, creative and innovative industry that we are. We are lucky to work in an industry made up of creative, innovate and digital savvy people. Ad blocking is going to push advertisers to be that little bit more creative and that tiny bit more innovative. We will have to think a little harder and dig a little deeper to create effective advertising, but it's definitely a challenge we are up to and as an agency obsessed with effectiveness we challenge this not only of ourselves, but the entire advertising industry.

Ad blocking is only going to make us better. It's going to make us an industry that puts the consumer even further at the heart of what it is doing and push advertisers to be more creative and more innovative which will help the advancement of the advertising industry.

Abby Norman is marketing coordinator at Hunterlodge Advertising.