As the popularity of ad blocking software continues to rise and spread across devices, advertisers and publishers alike already recognise the threat of this trend. All things considered, consumers should also be aware of the consequences of ad-blockers’ rapid growth. Ad-blockers cut a vital stream of publisher income which ultimately makes it harder for them to create the kind of content that audiences desire.
As momentum continues behind the likes of Adblock Plus, the online publishing industry looks to paywall subscription packages as a means of surviving the ever-narrowing margins given by ad-funded content. For consumers, this means that a growing proportion of their preferred sites will no longer be available to them without a regular cash pay-out. Ultimately, this will lead to the demise of the free model and an open internet.
Take the hint – digital ads must change
This industry shift needn’t be inevitable, though. What the rise of ad blocking has produced is a more open discussion around the alternatives to common banner ads and other formats which drive users to install ad blockers in the first place. The big issue is the quantity of intrusive and irrelevant messages, and the fact that these ads typically result in longer load times which are guaranteed to frustrate audiences. Therefore, what the publishing and advertising industries need is to consider a method for advertising that provides clear value for audiences and can reduce the disruption that advertising causes.
In practice this means presenting relevant and engaging propositions, which are given the proper context by illustrating the transactional relationship between ads and the content in front of the viewer. Furthermore, by increasing the quality, relevance and effectiveness of individual ads, the overall number of ads viewed per person can be significantly reduced as advertisers convey their messages more efficiently and succinctly.
Interactivity is the answer
There is already advertising technology in the marketplace that can deliver a better experience to audiences. One example is our FreeWall® technology, which offers a third route for advertisers which lands between industry standard display ads and the paywall model. The technology works by granting readers full access to premium content in exchange for an interaction with an in-stream brand message. In practice this could be as simple as a question which can be answered by the reader with one click, such as asking if the viewer noticed a specific feature of an advertised product. Once the answer has been given correctly the reader is free to continue reading the article or, alternatively, to click through and find more information about the brand or product on offer.
What this method offers is a simple value exchange for audiences: their short interaction means that they can continue to enjoy online content without multiple pop-ups, banners and other messages continually disrupting their reading. A recent neurological study conducted by market research specialists Neuro-Insight – on behalf of Rezonence – discovered that audiences showed an increase in positive emotional responses when interactive advertising content is shown compared to the standard formats. This is crucial for advertisers as well as audiences’ sanity: as a result of the positive experience, audiences’ brains encoded a stronger memory of the brand after viewing these ads compared to traditional mid-page units.
For advertisers and publishers, a system of this kind also addresses current hot topics such as viewability and ad fraud. While these are both subjects of debate right now, ad models that are rooted in user interaction provide accountable data that can’t be muddied by bots or a faulty algorithm. The high level of interactivity in this new digital ad tech also results in a more powerful measurement of engagement than a simple ‘view’ metric which is associated with the current crop of display ads, and can be tailored by advertisers to suit a specific brief if necessary. The wealth of data for publishers and advertisers alike is also a valuable benefit to interactive platforms, and will benefit audiences as messages become better targeted to their preferences through previous interactions.
For advertisers and publishers who are concerned about the rise of ad blocking software, now is the time to embrace a new approach to digital advertising. A current quick fix for the issue is anti-ad-blocking systems that make content inaccessible to software that could block it. However, while this is certainly a useful solution for publishers, audiences are still growing impatient of the current crop of ads they have to endure. If publishers take this chance to consider why audiences turn to ad blockers in the first place, they will be in a strong position to fix a model that keeps the free web economy alive, and keeps publishers’ audience bases thriving.