Advertising Age's Tim Peterson and Courtney Fishman's recent article, "Ad Blocking is a Growing Problem. What's the Fix?" addresses the thorny conflict between the needs of advertisers and the convenience of internet users. Basically, digital marketers need the ever-so-slim revenues that come from online advertising, while users don't want to be bothered by advertising that may eat up bandwidth, auto-play videos, contain malware and cookies, and generally damage their browsing experience.
This conflict is being continually escalated by browser software that can completely block online ads. The most popular, AdBlock, has been downloaded 400 million times in the United States, and has 50 to 60 million active users, according to Peterson and Fishman. A study from Adobe and PageFair states that 28% of U.S. internet browsers use ad-stopping software, with the numbers expected to increase.
This problem is interrelated to the difficult balance that all forms of advertising must strike in terms of getting an audience's attention vs. annoying the hell out of it. Make your ads too loud or ostentatious and alienation will follow. Too subtle and you will be ignored. This is further complicated online with ad stopping software because the more complicated your ads are online, the more code and scripting they will require, and the longer it will take the ad, and the webpage they are on, to load. And if a page takes too long to load, you risk the twin problems of users either jumping off the website, or being further tempted to download something like AdBlock.
Naturally, marketers are freaked out. Many solutions to the issue are being tested. One is to simply pay the ad stopping software companies to allow ads to get through, although, as Advertising Age notes, this is a tactic akin to paying hush money to the mob. (And, in a escalation of the marketers vs. users war, there are ways for users to still block these ads.) Another tactic is the up to quotient of native advertising in your content mix. Most ad blocking software has a lot of trouble distinguishing native ads from original content.
Finally, there's just personal appeals. Many websites now feature text, often guilt-inducing, under the webpage layout slots where advertisements would go without ad blocking software. As in the image above, the text will remind users that advertising is how a site pays for itself and how creators make a living, and make a polite request for the user to ad the site to the ad blocking software's "white list," which will allow ads to pass through the software's filter.
This issue will almost certainly continue to grow more concerning, because it is too simple and easy for users to rid themselves of what is often the most annoying and frustrating part of web browsing. In fact, the response of a lot of those reading this article is going to be "You mean I can get rid of all those annoying ads?", immediately followed by a click of the link to download the AdBlock software. Marketers should be wary.