As publishers continue the "arms race" with ad blockers, and the IAB continues to be outspoken in educating consumers on the economics of content and how ad blockers diminish the ability for free content consumption, for advertisers, the ad-blocking story is not all doom and gloom.
More signal, less noise
For years I have spoken about the "myth of digital reach." Bot fraud, viewability and other online advertising issues aside, the fact is that amid a sea of 300x250s, the value of your digital reach becomes diminutive. The universe of impressions has grown bigger, the echo chambers are more deafening, and people have simply become unimpressed.
The birth of the internet as a content distribution channel was revolutionary for publishing at large but the fact is, an unlimited supply of inventory is dangerous for any market; products in such markets fall into the commodity trap and lose value in saturated markets. Furthermore, rather than taking a responsible approach to media creation in a world with lowered barriers to operation, many publishers chose to eke out as many impressions as possible through endless listicles and other needless online publishing tactics. Let's face it -- ad blocking was (and is) an inevitable response by consumers.
By limiting some of the noise, perhaps there will be a better chance that an advertiser's signal will get through to its target, creating a great opportunity to leave a stronger lasting impression.
The power of premium
In the mid 2000s, savvy digital marketers began to target "people, not places" (as the saying often went). Many took this strategic approach to an extreme level. Today, many digital and direct marketers have forgotten about the importance of brand alignment and media association as a factor in brand positioning. "Your brand is where it lives," one might say.
In a world where content has become overabundant, advertisers need to remember that context is the kingdom, and in the absence of original content, integration with premium content providers can do wonders for brand perception and favorability. In certain ways, we have come full circle when it comes to targeted vs. endemic media placements.
Partnering with premium content providers that require ad blockers to be turned off in order to enjoy the full experience can be seen as a blessing for advertisers, as it weeds out the "passersby" and ensures the presence of a highly engaged audience -- an audience that has shown their true appreciation for the content they are looking at as opposed to the type of content that lures you in for a single page view.
Big experience over big data
Perhaps the presence of ad-blocking technology will force publishers to clean up their sites, speeding up and enhancing the overall experience -- including the delivery of ads. As evidenced year after year during the Superbowl, it is not always the ads themselves that people dislike; it is the disruption of getting done what they need to get done.
As a long time media and marketing practitioner, the thought of consumers blocking all ads is daunting, but that is simply not a reality, and it will likely never be a reality. As we continue to navigate the digital marketing landscape, I implore advertisers to consider customer experience first and foremost. If ads truly add value to consumers, there will be little need to block them.