Why Ad Blocking Will Save the Ad Industry: You Don't Want Consumers Who Don't Want You

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People hate your ads and are actively blocking them. Everybody panic!

Whoa. Slow down for a second, marketers. Look at the stats. Recent data shows that the majority of people don't hate ads. Rather, they hate poor user experiences.

Sure, there are some people -- less than 16% of all users -- who claim to "hate ads" and will never click on, engage with or convert based on an ad. Ad blocking empowers these people to have the user experience they want by opting out of campaigns. But why would you want to waste your valuable budget trying to shove ads in front of these individuals when they're actively telling you that they don't want to see them?

By removing these people from potential impression pool, ad blockers make your spend more effective.

Making marketing anticipated, personal, relevant
In his book "Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers," Seth Godin said, "Permission Marketing is just like dating. It turns strangers into friends and friends into lifetime customers. Many of the rules of dating apply, and so do many of the benefits." These rules absolutely apply to digital advertising.

There's no point in pursuing someone who doesn't want to date you.

And by the same token, we shouldn't try. Pursuing someone who doesn't want to date you is creepy. Pursuing a consumer who doesn't want your ads is annoying. Consumers who choose to block ads are trying to achieve a better user experience online. (It's not you, it's them!) By finding ways to circumvent blockers and serving ads, you're creating a hostile experience -- and essentially shooting yourself in the foot.

Another, closer analogy might be email marketing. Circumventing ad blockers is akin to finding a technology that will email people who have elected to opt-out of your email list. That will never end well.

Some of these ad blockers are consumers who will never click on ads and never buy online. They don't trust ads, and they may not be comfortable typing their Visa number into an online form. These people are not in your target audience. You're better off not wasting impressions on them.

Other consumers who block your ads may buy your product. They may already be customers. Their objection to your ad probably has very little to do with your message or the product itself. It's the way we serve ads that's the problem. When an interstitial surfaces and blocks half the page's content, can you blame a consumer for attempting to block it?

Again, these are not the people you should be focusing on.

Your smarter focus
Instead, stop worrying about the consumers who block ads, and double your efforts to engage those who accept them. The honest truth is that ad blocking serves advertisers well in the near-term, particularly direct response advertisers. By removing ad blocking consumers from the pool, advertisers stand to increase their percentage of engaged users, making both their ROI and ad spend look better. Brand advertisers may see a hit to their reach and awareness metrics, which may be a concern -- but also raises important questions: What are our goals, and what should we be measuring?

Today we talk more in terms of "relationship marketing" and "conversations" versus "permission marketing," but at the end of the day, it all boils down to user experience. We want to engage users with positive, relevant brand experiences. We should be aiming to build relationships and trust.

To quote Mr. Godin again, "In virtually every industry the most trusted brand is also the most profitable. Frequency led to awareness, awareness to familiarity, and familiarity to trust. And trust, almost without exception, leads to profit."

Recovery road
The web as we know it today was built on an economy rooted in fair value exchange: In return for great content, users must take in and idealy engage with advertising. At some point, the ads became too intrusive for users, who decided the value exchange isn't fair and balanced. It's time for advertisers and publishers to reset the scale.

To reset the scale, we have to take a cold, hard look at how we're treating consumers. Advertisers need to start asking questions of their agency partners and the demand-side platforms where they buy inventory. Brands need to examine their delivery systems and partner practices. They also need to see what actions partners are taking on their behalf to achieve the results they're reporting. It's likely that many brands would be horrified to see how and where their ads appear online -- interrupting the flow of content on some pages, appearing more than ten times on a single page on others. Take off the blinders and stop trusting partners to do the work honestly and properly. This is as much about brand safety as it is about user experience.

Let's look at ad blocking for what it is: Consumers calling us out on the industry's bad behavior. It's time to clean up our act and start favoring ads that work with users, not against them.

Meanwhile, let's focus on the consumers who are engaging with our ads, and give them the best experiences we can. By putting their experience first, we're sure to drive better outcomes all around.

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