Block Shock: The Astonishing rise of ad-blockers

Consumers are switching off. This was one of the straplines on which Captive Media was founded. Evidence is now mounting that consumers are doing just that – literally. Over 200 million people have now loaded up ad-blocking software onto their computers, according to The Economist.

If your target audience is young men, look away now. The Economist, reporting analysis by Adobe and Pagefair, adds “Younger consumers seem especially intolerant of intrusive ads, and as they get older, overall ad-blocking rates are bound to rise further”. It gets worse. “Publishers with a male, technophile audience are worst hit”, says Sean Blanchfield of PageFair. “At some online video-game sites more than half of ads get blocked.”

Imagine half of your ads being blocked… John Wanamaker famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”. How ironic that a century later and despite the best that online targeting has had to offer, his maxim seems still to be true.

The motivation appears to be simple. Online ads are irritating! Hands up if you cheerfully read through that pop up before getting down to the article you asked for. No-one? Me neither. Google’s Larry Page acknowledged as much at Google’s June 2015 shareholder conference: “Part of it is the industry needs to be better at producing ads that are less annoying”.

Ugh, just let me read the article

Ugh, just let me read the article

Ad-blocking has until recently been a phenomenon confined to desktop users. Online publishers thought that the increasing amount of time spent on mobile devices, which didn’t support ad-blocking, would offer a way round the problem. No such luck. The newest crop of ad blockers, such as Adblock Plus, block ads in mobile and desktop browsing – and in apps too. Apple announced (quietly) at its June developers conference, that iOS9 will support ad blocking.

So what’s the lesson here? Well, I don’t think that the lesson is to stop advertising online. Instead, the lesson is, as an advertiser, to provide a better value exchange between yourself and your audience. Intrusive ads that disrupt people from their daily activity without consideration of what they want (or don’t want!) is going to annoy and frustrate people and turn them away from your business. Give your audience something in return for them viewing your ad. By doing this, people won’t feel the need to switch off your advertising, and they may just start to enjoy what you have to say.

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