From Apple’s new iOS to the hundreds of ad blocking apps, consumers are making it clear they are not interested in being bombarded with online ads. Waving their devices like virtual pitch forks and torches, the global downloading of blockers hit 144 million per month by Q4 2014, a nearly 70% year-over-year increase that reached an estimated 198 million by June 2015, according to a PageFair/Adobe study.
With North American advertisers spending $50 billion annually in online ad space, the impact of ad blocking can pose a definite threat to the very structure that those same consumers are dependent upon. After all, advertising is the machine that funds the web and all the content we crave – and yes even the stuff we say we’re not craving. Twitter has recently unrolled a sophisticated ad network, Facebook wouldn’t exist without advertising and Google receives 90% of its revenue from online advertising. Can you imagine a world without all the tools and resources Google makes available to us on the web?
This in part is why so many industry experts are concerned with iOS ad blocking capabilities. Although the newest version of iOS itself does not block ads, it provides the ability for developers to create ad blocking within apps. Many see this as a tactic by Apple to put a virtual “ad blocking” chokehold on the big behemoth that is eating up ad spending – Google Ads.
Be that true or not, it is a catalyst for change in how advertisers plan and buy media as they compete for higher levels of consumer engagement. In some respects the web and mobile are still very much like the wild-wild-west. Each month there is a new Sheriff in town and new rules that govern how you play the game. With Apple and Google wearing the big badge and Facebook pinned as the deputy, advertisers will be buying space from Town Hall not the local saloon. This can be viewed as a positive in terms of planning and reach, however it can also be a concern when the media outlet monopolizes the terms and formats. Having law and order is a good thing, provided flexibility and creativity are not the tradeoff.
According to a May 2015 survey by Strata, 44.8% of US ad agencies do not see ad-blocking software as a concern for their agency or clients. Just 9% say it as a major concern, with 46.3% stating it is somewhat of a concern. Behind the numbers, agencies and clients alike may be less concerned then industry analysists because we operate beyond the numbers. We work in a space of creative problem solving. Moving from wagon to radio, from radio to TV, from TV to web, creative agencies are adaptive and see opportunity where others see ad blockers.
My take is, as an agency owner, we need to be informed and sensitive to consumer behaviors and changes within media platforms, but it’s what we do, not how we conform. Change is an opportunity to be fresh, to create meaningful brand engagement that reaches the consumer in a way that resonates beyond clutter and noise. As for iOS or any other ad blocking apps, let them block the clutter so your engaging ad is free to deliver an authentic non-invasive brand experience.