Ad Blocking – what can brands do to protect themselves?

October 16, 2013

A small but bold company called Adblock Plus appears to be holding Twitter to ransom – in what it claims is an attempt to make advertising better for everyone.

Adblock Plus is a browser add-on with 30 million daily users, and unless a site is on its “whitelist” it blocks all the ads on the site.
How do sites get on the whitelist? They have to abide by Adblock’s “acceptable ad guidelines” – producing “acceptable, non-intrusive advertising”.
That’s not all – websites also have to hand over a share of their advertising revenue for the privilege of appearing on the whitelist.
As Twitter prepares to increase its advertising potential, it has been reminded of AdBlock’s power in no uncertain terms by a cheeky little open letter.
So should advertisers be worried about the rise in ad blocking? What does it mean for brands? Lexi Brown attempts to reassure us.
Advertising remains by far the most prevailing financial model on the web. It supports the entire ecosystem of online content creators.
Advertising revenue is what has allowed the platforms that exist on the web to not only survive but to grow and prosper. But as advertising effectiveness declines, so does advertiser spend.
Ad blocking is growing – an article posted on Forbes shows that studies estimate that between 9% and 23% of web users are now using ad blockers, and use of ad blocking is growing at the rate of 43% per year.
There have been a lot of open letters flying about recently – Sinead O’Connor to Miley Cyrus, Julian Assange to Benedict Cumberbatch, and now Adblock Plus to Twitter.
The threat for Twitter is obvious; this software prevents a message even reaching the user, which will effectively erode the value of all advertising inventory as the placement purchased never even results in an impression for a proportion of users.  
As the value of advertising inventory breakdowns, it will fundamentally change our experience of the web as it forces a significant shift in the online business model.
So should platforms partner with Adblock Plus and avoid the imminent scenario of the internet collapsing? Or will ‘acceptable ads’ just lead to advertising that’s easy to ignore and therefore ineffective anyway?
ITV has warned users with ad-blocking software that it will be preventing them from watching content via ITV Player. This move by ITV is to show that they are prioritising protecting their advertisers and key revenue stream.
Either way, brands can future-proof themselves against any potential fall-out.
• Brands should make sure the placements of their ads is highly relevant, by ensuring ads are in contextually appropriate environments for their target consumer.
• Brands should avoid intrusive advertising placements such as auto-play videos, which can aggravate the user. Moving away from disruptive forms of advertising isn’t just popular with Adblock – it’s popular with consumers too.
• Creatively brands should try to be engaging but not distract the user from the content if they are not interested in the product. This is an opportunity for brands to be highly creative in terms of content – lifting ads above the ordinary and providing extra value for the reader.
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