For those in the know ad blocking has been around for years – preventing annoying pop-ups or flashy adverts on all sorts of websites.
But 2015 was a pivotal year for the technology as it went from being something which was only discussed within the industry to being a cultural pop reference in three episodes of cult TV show South Park.
More than 200 million consumers have chosen to voice their discontent with the nature of digital advertising by turning to ad blocking according to industry sources. Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, has pointed out that using an ad blocker represents the “biggest boycott in human history”.
A report in 2015 from PageFair and Adobe predicted that ad blocking could cost publishers nearly $22 billion while the number of people using ad blocking rose by 41% globally in the previous 12 months. The figures in the UK alone are staggering where ad blocking grew by 82% to reach 12 million active users in 12 months up to June 2015.
It’s an interesting indictment of changing consumer habits that when the authors of the report asked 400 Americans why they used an ad blocker, the primary reason they gave was “to avoid misuse of personal information”.
This was also highlighted by IPSOS in a survey on behalf of the marketing services company TRUSTe which found that the top cause for worry was “companies collecting and sharing my personal information with other companies”.
While this isn’t necessarily directly related to adverts, it does show the general trend where people don’t want to have their online browsing habits monitored so advertisers can offer up “targeted adverts for your needs”.
Most people, when browsing the internet, are rarely actually looking to buy anything. They’re just going about their lives, doing whatever they do, which isn’t marketers’ business unless they say it is.
Of course this means the less progressive voices in the ad tech industry are predicting the end of all digital content. This is as unlikely as those who predicted the dawn of the internet would end traditional print media when all newspapers went online.
Digital publishing is constantly facing challenges, first print to digital, then the rise of social media, the most recent move being to smartphones, tablets and other form of remote access. At each turn, as Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer at Shine Technologies, writes on The Drum, companies will adapt and new technologies will surface which allow customers a choice.
He writes: “I predict that smart advertisers, publishers and ad tech companies will. And they will be the ones to reap the rewards of earning back the respect of consumers.
“Those players that continue trying to monetise the ‘best practices’ of yesteryear will soon discover the error of their ways. For many, it will already be too late.”
For Searls this means advertising which isn’t based on tracking a users’ every step. What he refers to as the old “Madison Avenue” kind which is what is still used in the offline world.
He writes: “Even if we don’t like ads fattening our magazines and interrupting our TV shows, we at least know the economic role they play and appreciate the best ones, which can be every bit as good as the content they sponsor.
“These ads send strong signals about brands, and yet they respect our privacy, don’t plant tracking beacons on us, and don’t lure us away from what we’re doing. The attractive ads that populate Vogue and other high-quality offline media are advertising’s wheat. The kind that drive millions of us to use ad blockers are advertising’s chaff,” he adds.
Here at 650hours we work with our clients to develop a strong content-led digital engagement strategy which increases your brand recognition through organic build up by utilising social media in combination with e-marketing and traditional print media campaigns where appropriate.
Our blog – 6 steps to a winning digital marketing strategy – gives some valuable advice on what we believe are the vital ingredients. We also have a free white paper which examines the merits of social media. You can find that here.