Thoughts

South Park and Ad Blocking

April 21st, 2016   |   Scott Dahlgren

Know why your ads are getting blocked?

Ad-blocking technology has been around for almost as long as the web. However, the conversation has recently gone mainstream with high-profile media like The TODAY show and The Howard Stern Show. And you know it is an important topic when it’s the storyline of a South Park episode.

Last year, a PageFair study found ad-blocking penetration in the United States grew by 48% to 45 million people between 2014 and 2015. That is 16% of the online population.

Why? People are using ad blockers because of concerns about privacy, avoiding annoyance, protection from virus/spyware and to speed up their system.

As people spend more time on their phones and the mobile web, their concerns about privacy and a poor web experience are amplified. They realize:

• Their physical location can be tracked in addition to their online behavior
• A slow loading page can increase their wireless fees
• Ads on a small screen are more irritating

Even though the software is called an “ad” blocker, it can strip more than just ads on a web page. Depending on the blocker, it can block embedded media like video/audio, widgets and social media buttons. It can also affect other technology like tracking codes, website analytics and malware.

Some argue it undermines the infrastructure of the web – particularly publishers whose web pages are left with holes and broken links.

Currently, ad blocking is having a greater impact on publishers than advertisers. PageFair estimated lost revenue to U.S. publishers was nearly $11 billion in 2015 and will be over $20 billion in 2016.

In the short-term, publishers are trying different approaches to recoup the lost revenue, including:

1) Using technology to detect ad-block users and not allow visitors access to content.
2) Paying ad-blocker providers to be white-listed and thus not have ads blocked on their pages.
3) Asking visitors to either turn off their ad blockers or become paid members to access content.

Many advertisers are just moving their dollars to unblocked digital inventory, but that is not a solution even for the short-term. An advertiser can be successful now by using the right strategies, including:

1) Know your customers and their digital habits.
2) Use ad targeting to increase relevancy.
3) Look to closed platforms and in-app placements.
4) Partner with publishers using first-party ad placements.
5) Consider more cost-per-click buys.
6) Track performance and ROI.
7) Hold publishers accountable to ad delivery.
8) Craft creative that tells stories and messages providing value.

In the long-term I believe publishers and advertisers need to focus on improving user experience by:

1) Creating paid content that provides value.
2) Being responsible and conscious of privacy issues.
3) Building streamlined website layouts.
4) Reducing the number of ads on website pages.
5) Not forcing engagement with obtrusive messages.
6) Crafting creative that entertains, educates and inspires.

It’s unfortunate that I even have to write this blog, but because of irresponsible and annoying digital advertising, people’s increasing use of ad blockers is becoming a big issue for advertisers and an even bigger issue for online publishers.

Send me an email and let me know if you have more solutions.

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