Adblock on mobile: How to future-proof your brand

By Marilyn Wilkinson

According to Juniper Research, adblocking is expected to cause $27 billion in lost revenues by 2020, and adblock on mobile has now outpaced desktop usage. This is problematic for publishers and marketers, since advertising funds the majority of online content. But for users, blocking ads via browser extensions, plugins or other software offers clear advantages: fewer interruptions, faster load times and longer battery life.

This conundrum leaves some people asking whether this might be the shakeup digital marketing needs to improve user experience.

The blocked web

Eleven percent of the world’s global population blocks ads. This rate is even higher in developed markets like the US (18%), Germany (29%) and Ireland (39%). While adblock usage is widespread across all age groups, genders and education levels, some demographics are particularly likely to block ads.

A study of 4,626 US internet users by PageFair found that the demographic groups most likely to block ads were males between the ages of 25–34 living in suburban areas who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Marketers have started referring to this phenomenon as “the blocked web,” since their marketing efforts may not even reach their target audience.

The shift to mobile

Sixty percent of devices with an installed adblocker are mobile, and 16 percent of smartphone users block ads. In the US and Europe, adblocking has mainly been restricted to desktop. In other markets, such as Asia, the popularity of mobile adblockers has boomed — and there’s nothing to prevent a similar trend in other markets. The proliferation of adblocking across different devices makes it crucial to address the reasons why users choose to block ads in the first place.

Simply put, ads can be irksome. In a HubSpot survey of 731 adblock users in the US and Europe, 64 percent of users said they used an adblocker because ads were intrusive and annoying. Fifty-four percent said ads disrupted them from what they were doing, while others cited privacy and security concerns.

Marketers and publishers complain about users wanting to “have their cake and eat it, too,” consuming ad-supported content without actually seeing the ads. But consumer frustration is understandable, with certain ad formats, such as pop-ups and autoplay audio, creating high levels of frustration and annoyance for consumers.

Adblock on mobile: What can marketers do about it?

To really overcome adblocking, marketers need to change their mindset and leverage digital media in creative new ways. “Workaround” tactics like white-listing have proven ineffective, with 74 percent of users leaving websites with adblock walls. Fortunately for brands, it is still possible to create valuable web content that isn’t blocked, but the quality of that content is key.

An adblock-proof digital marketing strategy should incorporate some of the following:

  1. Social media platforms and messaging apps: After warning investors that adblock “had an adverse effect on … financial results,” Facebook developed tamper-proof ad technology and created guidelines for user-friendly ads. This means marketers can reach their target audience on social media, but should work to avoid causing audience fatigue with generic or repetitive ads.
  2. Native advertising and content marketing: Native advertising doesn’t look like a typical ad and blends in seamlessly with editorial content. Similarly, content marketing has promotional intent, but also entertains, informs and educates. Users typically respond better to this approach.
  3. Influencer marketing: Tech-savvy millennials and Generation Z are highly likely to use adblock on mobile, yet will spend hours watching their favorite influencers on YouTube. Thus, a surefire way to be seen by your target audience is to have a strong web presence in the areas in which they are most engaged, featuring figures who are respected by their followers.
  4. SEM and SEO: Sponsored search results and organic search placement enable brands to bring relevant, engaged traffic into the sales funnel. Organic search, in particular, boasts high engagement and conversion rates since users are actively searching for information about the brand or product.
  5. Email marketing: So long as it’s not too frequent or spammy, email is still one of the most effective ways of reaching your target audience. For best results, A/B test headlines and offer a great value proposition, such as amazing content or discounts, to get the audience’s attention without annoying them.

The bottom line

Savvy marketers know that campaigns will yield a much higher return on investment if they provide genuine value to their audience. Entertain, don’t annoy. Inform, don’t interrupt. If you offer high-quality brand experiences instead of wasting your budget on ineffective online advertising, consumers will reward you with higher engagement, sales and loyalty.

Written By

Marilyn Wilkinson

Digital Analyst, IBM Digital Analytics Group

Marilyn Wilkinson is a Digital Analyst for the IBM Digital Analytics Group (DAG). By combining data analysis and insights with her own knowledge of marketing trends and strategies, she empowers marketing teams to make data-driven decisions. She is passionate about big data, analytics…

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