Ad blockers are here to stay, and those who are savvy enough to realise it will see this as more of an opportunity than a threat. The shift we’re experiencing in advertising has triggered a reduction in consumer concerns regarding online privacy, the key to engaging users is in persuading them to willingly part with their data.

Changing customer perceptions through engaging content

Advertisements are generally perceived as the aggravating alternative to bear if we don’t want to pay for online content. This view needs to be changed by creating engaging, interactive and social experiences that users would be happy to consume.

Ideally, advertising services will provide platforms that complement the impacts ad blocking have imposed. The less distracted consumers feel from their online experience, the more engaged they become, and the more likely they are to embrace the message.

Merging the advert with website content

Making users feel tricked into clicking on adverts should be avoided. The feeling of having to absorb a message somewhat against their will is a likely motive for people to install an ad blocker.

Whilst no webpage can be made entirely immune to the option of having an ad blocker installed, native advertising will be essential in getting past the obstacles ad blocking have imposed.

This involves the ad experience merging with the natural form and function of the websites user experience. For example, if a brand is advertising on twitter – instead of having a web banner displayed on the side of the page, it would be best advised to advertise through a twitter post. If it’s done well it is essentially a subtle product placement.

Strengthening the user’s connection with the brand

Lego is a great example of a company using new interactive experiences to engage their customers. The Lego community fan page creates social interaction by encouraging users to share their ideas for new Lego sets and vote for their favourite. Points and badges described as “clutch power” can also be collected to encourage participation in the activities. Cookies have to be accepted take part in this experience, but the incentive of the activities could make users more inclined to willingly accept these conditions.

Through offering social rewards and recognitions, not only have Lego surpassed the barriers that software such as ad blockers have imposed to make consumer data inaccessible, but the activities are also increasing the level of interaction consumers have on the social platform. This makes it possible to gather data that will give managers a greater understanding of how their customers prefer to interact online. The insights can also create tailor-made online social campaigns that will see stronger levels of engagement, and increased loyalty from users towards the brand.

Organisations leading the way for new-age advertising

Ray Ban are just one notable organisation creating memorable experiences for their customers through advertising. Their website allows visitors to connect to a “virtual mirror” via webcam and virtually wear their glasses. Although viewers have to accept the website cookies to take part this virtual experience. In exchange the company can collect consumer data and the personalised activity makes it possible to also monitor each user’s specific product interests.

Time Out is another strong model for the success of overcoming ad blockers through native advertising. Peroni was one of the first sponsored brands on the website to experiment with the concept of merging their message with the website platform to create a seamless experience, and needless to say their diversion from traditionally direct methods, such as brand competitions, was a success. The campaign involved executing a series of content on the ‘arts & culture’ section of the Time Out website that promoted the Italian lifestyle in London, and the content was accompanied by a Peroni advertisement. Focusing on integrating the brand in this manner will see a stronger return on investment and higher levels of engagement.

Advertising through location-based services

Location based services are another dimension with the potential to develop in response to ad blockers. Starbucks on Foursquare – the location intelligence app dedicated to enabling people to explore places/ services in their current location, is a great example of this. Starbucks have the option on Foursquare of allowing customers to check-into the app once they’re inside a store in exchange for an economic or social reward. In the instance of Starbucks this could be a discounted cup of coffee or, after visiting the store a number of times, gaining the Foursquare status of ‘mayor’ of the shop.

There are also many companies in the luxury field such as Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Gucci that are engaging customers in this way to overcome privacy concerns.  Creating an active experience that enables the company to collect the user’s data.

As ad blockers push advertisers to become more engaging and creative, the new consumer experience will deflate the concerns surrounding data privacy. Advertisers will also continue to encourage users to engage on a more personal level, which in turn will compel users to share the experience with friends, whether that be through social media, word of mouth, or both. Taking this into consideration it seems this is a win-win situation for everyone.

Margherita Pagani

Margherita Pagani


Margherita Pagani, Associate Professor at EMLYON Business School.