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What does the rise of ad-blocking software mean for digital paid advertising?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

There’s been a lot of talk recently about ad-blocking and a number of studies have been conducted to try to assess the true scale of it. According to November’s Ad Blocking Report from the Internet Advertising Bureau and YouGov, 18% of British adults are using ad-blocking software.

At Ambergreen, our paid media team are always on top of the latest developments in their sector so we spoke to them to get their take on the situation.

GraemeOur Paid Media Consultant, Graeme Orr, acknowledges that ad-blocking plug-ins are something the team are aware of:

“There seems to be a bit of a buzz around it just now and this is making more people aware of it who are likely to install it as a result.

“Searching for keywords we know to be relevant and bring in conversions is likely to be impacted. Also retargeting campaigns, which are commonly a key part of an online marketing strategy, will lose reach.

“I’m not so sure we will see a massive drop in conversion rates, if any at all. I think the main issue will be around reach but I don’t see any real difference in performance currently. It is important to keep our finger on the pulse in case AdBlock grows in popularity.”

Malcolm FiguresMalcolm Figures is Ambergreen’s Head of Paid Media. He’s been monitoring the reaction of publishers to the threat posed by ad avoidance:

“A new Apple iOS has led to a surge in ad-blocker use (particularly in young affluent users who are highly desirable) as well as increased awareness. Questions have been raised about Apple’s motives and whether this is intended to hurt Google.

“Publishers are fighting back against software like AdBlock Plus, with high profile sites such as the Washington Post which uses pop-ups when an ad blocker is detected to ask for the user’s email address or asking them to turn off the ad blocker in order to view the content. I’m sure video publishers are doing the same.

“This is going to become more commonplace as publishers need to get something back for their content, so either they’ll get another piece of data such as an email or they’ll block the content. Quite right in my opinion.”

Colleen McCaskellIn fact, Paid Media Manager, Colleen McCaskell, is already aware of examples of video publishers finding ways to counter the impact of ad blocking:

“4oD requires users to disable their ad blockers in order to stream videos and also requires them to disable popular extensions like Ghostery and plugins that are meant to prevent tracking for advertising purposes.”

Although publishers are clearly swinging into action, Graeme makes the point that the situation is still nuanced:

“There are still a lot of things to take into consideration. We could argue that if it’s only the people who are irritated by ads that are blocking them, then our audience becomes more relevant; but in the case of search campaigns I’d like these ads to be in front of users who are intently looking for what our clients have to offer.”

Malcolm believes that any threats posed to advertisers by the use of ad-blocking technology will be overcome by a mixture of accurate targeting on the part of paid media teams and by changes at industry level:

“It hasn’t visibly impacted our campaigns yet but it is something we are aware of and are trying to take steps to protect our clients. By diversifying a client’s advertising mix we can ensure campaigns are not wiped out by one piece of software as well as giving the campaign more chances to reach intended user.

“I agree with Graeme that our job is to ensure the right message reaches the right user in a non-intrusive and value-added way, so in theory our ads are beneficial to the user and ideally not the target of an ad blocker. If our targeting is right users should have no reason to block our ads.”

Colleen agrees that finding the right balance of advertising formats and platforms will form part of the appropriate response to the challenges raised by ad-blocking software:

“Uptake rate on alternative types of advertising such as native is likely to improve. Given that they are meant to read like ‘real’ content, ad blockers won’t be hiding these anytime soon. Advertisers that currently focusing a bit more narrowly on channels like Adwords Search will become more prone to diversifying out of necessity.”

The last words on ad-blocking, though, go to Malcolm:

“There have always been threats the industry over the years and this is just the latest one. Platforms always adjust and continue to grow; I don’t expect ad blocker to kill the industry.

“About a year ago the threat was that impressions were being generated by bots or below the page which caused everyone to question if their ads were really seen. The industry fought back with viewable impressions metrics and extra focus on placement exclusions to alleviate concerns so I expect a deal to be done soon to change this story again.”

At Ambergreen, our paid media team are used to helping clients from across all industries to achieve the best possible ROI on their digital advertising campaigns. We’re aware of the challenges your campaigns could face and we’re experienced in developing the right strategy to meet them.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you and your business then contact us now.

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