Ad blocking technology is the digital version of consumers flipping through a newspaper or switching TV channels - albeit a much more serious concern for digital publishers dependent on data-driven advertising that only profits from actual views. According to the consulting firm Ovum, publishers lost $24 billion as a result of ad-blocking last year. While there’s no cure-all for digital ad avoidance, the media industry has started to tackle the problem head-on by experimenting with various anti-ad blocking strategies. Here are some of the most effective ways the media industry has responded to the war on ads:
In terms of targeted reach and return on investment, email is still one of the most effective internet marketing strategies. Asking consumers with ad-blockers for an email address to access all content is a great way to forge a relationship with users, and to better understand consumer preferences for more interest-targeted marketing. Epicurious, Condé Nast’s digital-only food-focused publication, has launched its own no email, no access experiment for users who have ad-blockers enabled. The publisher has found the one-on-one communication essential for both parties to better understand one another, and for the user to have the best possible experience with the brand.
2. Anti-ad blocking software
Ad-blocking software has been taking hold of the internet one web page at a time, and many publishers have decided to fight fire with fire. Companies like Secret Media, Sourcepoint and PageFair have different techniques that aim to give publishers control over ad-blockers. Ad reinsertion is one of the more aggressive approaches coming from defensive software: users have no other choice but to watch ads, because the software makes them undetectable to ad-blockers. The most effective versions of these ad reinsertion techniques will work with publishers to reinsert more user-friendly ads into the space.
3. Native ads
Native ads make for a much more user-friendly experience, because they don’t look ads at all. Mashable and MasterCard recently joined forces to produce an article about users' relationships with mobile devices. After introducing MasterCard's digital payment system, this piece was chockablock with infographics and research findings promoting Mastercard, but still consistent with the Mashable brand. As long as it fits in with the rest of your site, audiences will actually enjoy reading sponsored content - and ad blockers won't even detect it!
4. Multi-platform strategies
There are dozens of opportunities for diversified revenue streams in the digital publishing landscape - take advantage of them! Publishing on various social platforms is a great way to build a relationship with users, and monetize content while you’re at it. You can host your content on Facebook Instant Articles and Medium, stream videos on OTT platforms, and give users a taste of your brand on Snapchat. The more you connect with your audience on the platforms they use the most, the more users will feel obligated to check out your site. And the more baskets you put your eggs into, the less dependence you’ll have on your site’s revenue.
5. Paywalls and The Financial Times strategy
Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that Great Britain voted to leave the European Union? The Financial Times seized this historic moment and acted fast to pull some moves that further thwarted ad-blocking. It shelved its paywall for 24 hours for all news related to Brexit, the night before the election. The FT’s coverage and real-time marketing strategy cemented the publication as a producer of quality journalism worth paying for - and on the weekend of the Brexit vote, there was a whopping 600% uptake of digital subscriptions.
6. Discount incentives
Here's one marketing truth that never fails: Everyone likes free stuff. Incentivized ads offer freebies in exchange for watching paid content. Spotify’s Freemium model is a great example of incentivized advertising, where users are offered 30 minutes of ad-free listening per video ad. The New York Times has a similar model, where users get to read 10 free articles per month before they're asked to subscribe.
7. Ad industry standards
The leaders of the industry have some ad-blocking defense strategies of their own. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) proposes a video ad serving template (VAST) for developers and designers, to facilitate the smooth-running of video ad tech. The IAB also proposes a light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive (LEAN) program. This aims to educate publishers and advertisers about the types of ads that give users the best experience.
The Media Trust suggests using a scan, measure, analyze, resolve and track (SMART) strategy. This standard focuses on identifying ads that provide a poor user experience, not just visually but in terms of security and privacy. The Media Trust will help to remove ads that don’t make the grade of industry standards. This approach hopes to rid the internet of offending ads, so that ad-blockers will no longer be needed.