3 Ways Publishers and Advertisers Can Fight Back Against Ad Blockers

October 23, 2015

Yesterday we shared our new infographic on the rise of ad blocking. Today we continue our exploration into the phenomenon that is reshaping the relationship between publishers, advertisers, and consumers—and which will likely demand new methods of delivering ads and reaching customers.

Here’s a look at why consumers are turning to ad blockers, and what publishers and advertisers can do to make sure their messages are relevant rather than annoying to their target audiences.

Who’s Blocking Ads—and Why

Before advertisers and websites can understand how to structure their ad strategy, they have to understand who is using ad-blocking software and why. Men ages 18-29 are very likely to use ad-blocking software (54%), and men are 48% more likely than women to use ad-blocking software. Across genders, 18-29 year olds were the most frequent users of ad-blocking (41%), and Chrome users are most likely to use ad-blocking software (86 million users), followed by Firefox (41 million).

Some types of websites have higher ad-blocking rates than others. Gaming sites have the highest ad-blocking rates, at 26.5%, followed by social networking at 19.1%, tech news at 17%, education news at 16.9%, and sports news at 15.5%.

Why do people block ads? A study from Adobe and PageFair showed that 45% of ad blockers start using ad blocking primarily to “remove as many ads as possible from all websites,” while another 27% started to “remove some ads that I found especially annoying.” Other reasons included to prevent third-party cookie tracking; to improve computer speed, bandwidth, or battery life; to remove ads that seemed to know what sites users were visiting; and to remove ads from a particular website.

How to Counteract Ad Blocking

If your customers are downloading ad blocking software, there are still several ways to save your ad impressions.

  • First, build better ads and target them. Over 90% of the people using Adblock Plus said they did it to get rid of distracting animations and sounds, so by making sure your ads aren’t annoying or distracting, you may hold on to your impressions. Fewer than half of display ads are ever viewed; one study showed that only 2.8% of people thought that digital ads were relevant. Increasing the level of relevance and personalization will make it harder for your customer to completely ignore your advertising.
  • Next, advertisers can consider native advertising, a form of advertising in which ads match the form and function of the platform they’re on. These ads are also focused more on offering content to users, and 70% of people say they’d rather learn about products through content than through traditional advertising.
  • Finally, you can take more forceful measures to encourage users to view your ads. For example, the Washington Post has begun experimenting with technology allowing them to block ad-blockers, detecting whether or not a user is using ad-blocking software and barring them from viewing content if so. Similarly, com began blocking ad blockers in 2013, after estimating that anywhere between 5-40% of users arrived on their site with ad-blocking software enabled.

Unfortunately, in this case, just asking politely isn’t likely to be successful. One study ran ads on 140 sites requesting that ad-blockers disable their software or pay to subscribe to an ad-free version of the site. This tactic only saw an average conversion rate of less than 1%, and a mere fraction of that in donations.

At the end of the day, people tend to hate Internet ads because they don’t feel the ads are relevant to them or their experience; casting broad nets with advertisements is likely to waste your money and annoy your customers. Instead, focus on targeting your ads as much as possible and using native advertising that customers prefer. With highly targeted ads, you’ll be able to maintain your ad impressions while still appealing to your customers.

To learn more about how publishers are driving value through better targeting and identity resolution, check out our whitepaper, Digital Publishing: Increasing Advertiser Value Through Data and Identity.

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Laurel Wamsley

Laurel Wamsley was the Marketing and Communications Manager at Signal, and the editor of Signal's blogs. She worked previously at the University of Chicago, Rackspace, and NPR.

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