If you were to ask almost anyone that is not in marketing what they thought about the ads that are forced upon them online, many would indicate they detest them. But most of us tend to just drudge through the annoying popups, screen takeovers and in feed ads that are a part of the normal use of the internet these days. However, around 26% of US internet users aren’t quite as forgiving toward intrusive ads and have taken measures to rid themselves of most of them by using ad blocking software.
To block ads with an ad blocker, or not to block ads, that really isn’t the question any longer. Why? Well, imagine if your company suddenly started losing 26% of its revenue, or saw a decline in the growth of revenue by 26%. That is not something any for profit business could just sit down and ignore, especially when the trend also shows that it will be increasing even more!
Internet Ad Blockers Today And Into The Future
The ad blocking industry today is seeing growth as US internet and mobile web users are increasingly looking to ad blocker software to remove the troublesome and intrusive ads from their desktop and mobile devices while online. The Interactive Advertising Bureau conducted a study this year that shows that 26% of American internet users are utilizing ad blockers. A further survey by eMarketer shows that by the end of 2017 UK internet users will also be at a slightly higher 27% using ad blocking software.
eMarketer also estimates that ad blocker adoption is going to increase quite significantly. It is estimated that users of ad blocking software in the US will grow by double digits this year to 34.4% and another 24% next year. This represents a massive challenge for marketers that rely on the revenue and customer traffic that comes from online advertising.
The Ad Blocker Problem For Marketers
If you are a non-marketer, you might be saying to yourself “what’s the problem here”. But marketers, publishers and bloggers are being forced to look at this issue with a very different set of eyes. Most internet marketers, brands, content creators and bloggers derive at least some portion of their revenue from either displaying ads on their site OR from consumers that click ads and buy based on seeing the ads displayed on said sites. Do you see the challenge here?
The biggest problem we have here is the progression of technology. Remember when popups took over our internet navigation across the web in the late 90’s? Nearly all portal, publisher and content sites were pushing browser popup ads that gave rise to most browsers ultimately blocking such tactics. The evolution of display ad technology, becoming even more intrusive without an external browser window popup has made this a problem again.
What typically happens with technologies like this is that when they are new, they tend to work extremely well. Consumers are not accustomed to them, they are not on most websites and therefore they are not deemed too intrusive, yet get decent results for the site and their advertisers. As time goes on and the word gets out, more and more sites and marketers adopt the technology and we end up back at square one again, where consumers are annoyed with ads and marketers see declining results.
Consumers Hate Ads
As I stated in the opening paragraph, most internet users dislike ads, but put up with them. However, as they have become more and more intrusive, even the average user gets annoyed. The IAB study went further to uncover the type of ads that consumers hate the most. Nothing here was too shocking to me. On the contrary, I found myself saying yes, yes, YES as I read the data. Let’s see if you have a similar reaction.
Types of Ads Consumers Hate
Each of these most detested internet ad types are ranked a 3.4 or higher on a scale of 1-5. One being not annoying and 5 being the most annoying. Interestingly enough, none of the ad types that users were questioned about ranked below a 3.4 either. Meaning that all of these ad types were more than simply annoying and all are considered to be annoying or extremely annoying. The most detested online ad types were content blocking ads as described below.
Ads that block content – This includes ads that overlay content and effectively block your ability to see the content you want to read, video ads with long content before the actual video content which is very short and video ads that don’t offer a skip ad option.
Moving ad placement – This kind of ad is incredibly annoying to me, especially on a smartphone. This includes ads that scroll down a page as you do, ads that make the actual page content move, ads place in between the main content, ads that expand when your cursor scrolls over them and ads that are snugged up closer to the main content than usual.
Autoplay Ads – Ads that auto play sound or video automatically and do not have a controller to stop or mute the sound and video ads in a video player that play the video ad automatically before the actual video starts.
Heavy Ad Load Times – This includes ads that load slowly AND ads that load BEFORE the page content loads.
Animated Ads – These are so annoying to me, I often refuse to revisit a site or mobile app that uses them! They include ads that shake, blink and/or flash, ads with moving elements or bold colors, as well as the less frequent oversized ad.
Tracking Ads – These include any ads that are displayed based on products or services you have looked at on other sites.
The Battle Between Ad Blockers And Marketers
Marketers are in a really tough spot on this issue. In fact 96% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising and so they have recently announced that they are doing something about ad blockers on their site. They are deploying new code within their site that will attempt to combat ad blocking software within their platform, in order to recapture the revenue and growth opportunity that they rely on. See the Facebook blog post here.
The challenge that marketers and ad platforms such as Facebook have here is substantial. The approach that Facebook is taking could potentially backfire on them if the large population of ad blocker users decide they just can’t handle Facebook life that includes ads. Other sites that take a similar approach could also take a bigger hit if their users and consumers of their content revolt.
What Is Really Needed In Internet Advertising
There are two main segments that need some adjustments. One is for marketers and the second is on the technology front.
Marketers: Proper ad targeting is going to need to be your highest priority. There better you can target your ads your exact audience, the less intrusive your ads will seem. Furthermore, marketers need to step up their game to offer ads that are less about advertising and more about value and entertainment. The better your ad is, the less intrusive it will be perceived.
Lastly, marketers, brands and sites need to study the research in this post and match it to the ads they are serving and where. If your internet ads are creating an environment that is furthering the consumers hatred for ads, then you are creating your own demise.
Ad Technology: As I have written about in the mobile space, ad technology is ripe for innovation. Tech brands and startups need to develop new technologies that deliver marketers what they need, yet take into account the consumer that must suffer through their display.
New thinking and innovation must come to the forefront if the battle of ad blockers is going to end well for marketers and sites that rely on advertising revenues.
This is a subject that we love to hate, and we’re often a bit bipolar on the overall issue. Yes, I realize that sites depend on the revenue from ads to keep things up and running, and yet, ads that cover content and make me have to reconfigure my desktop or mobile screen serves neither the advertiser nor the end user. In this day and age of instant information, if I have to work around ads covering content, I’m moving on to another site that will have the information and fewer ads. There is another missive to post regarding the use of ads by Google in their Gmail. Not only are the ads there, and then when I dismiss the ad, they want me to do their due diligence for them and tell them why I dismissed the ad. Get a clue guys.
Agreed on all points Paul. Well said.
This battle is heating up and represents a significant issue for users and advertisers alike. The standoff reveals a perfect opportunity for new revenue models and advertising technologies to solve some of these issues. Looking forward to watching it play out.
Better content is the equalizer. I hate to admit that I’ll suffer through a horrendous barrage of ads to see what I want. If those people who clobber us with a squillion ads just had the guts to have fewer ads, I’d suffer less, and I may actually see the minimized ad invasion.
I will not advertise on sites that shun consumers with more of their pages being ads than content. It’s not valuable to me as an advertiser, and it’s not as valuable to the content producer, either.
Content producers will eventually get it, and find their balls to place content and usefulness of ads above the spaghetti toss of ads on their sites.
Accidental clicks and having to back up and reload a page where you can’t kill the takeover is not good for advertisers nor publishers.
Balls. The bottom line is that publishers will need to find the balls to refuse the temptation to destroy their assets based on shortsighted thinking.
Well said Mark. I love the passion behind your thoughts also.
We really are at a place within paid media where these two sides are at odds. I love it when industries get to this point because it screams opportunity and that’s when innovation and disruption tends to take place. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Thanks very much for an outstanding review of a topic that is as fundamental as it gets.
The vast majority of content consumers don’t begrudge the need to generate revenues to pay for all that wonderful content. Frustrate them, though, in your quest to squeeze every last dime out of that content and you feel their wrath.
Unfortunately, the penalty for that abuse ends up catching the dolphins, responsible advertisers, in the tuna net, too.
A happy medium must ultimately be reached. After all, it won’t be much use for folks to have ad blockers after all the great content sites have been driven out of business, unable to pay the bills.
One possibility, especially at the solopreneur level, is dropping out of the large networks and moving to other forms of promotional/monetization models, deals struck between product/service sellers and high-traffic content sites. The most sophisticated with coding skills are already doing this. These models are irrelevant to ad blockers, yet deliver higher ROIs for both parties than ads.
That model does not scale for larger businesses, though. And in any event, their size would soon put them on the ad-blocking radar.
It is indeed interesting times Ken. Thanks for your input!
I like your pop-up analogy from the late 90’s. The amount of popups were so tremendous, I think it single-handedly lead to the rise of Firefox because it has pop-up blocking features where IE did not. The popup blocker effectively ended this annoyance for users – but still allowed websites to advertise in less aggressive ways.
Unfortunately – when a user installs adblock – all web sites visited afterwards will suffer regardless of how great their content was, or how thoughtful they were in their placement of ads.
This is a problem for web publishers who are already trying to do all of the great things needed to grow and retain their userbases. The “good guys” will suffer because of the “bad guys” – and I hope that the good guys can weather the storm without turning to the dark side.
Well said John. This is indeed a problem that is escalating and is screaming for user, advertiser and platform solutions and new advertising models that address these issue. It will be interesting to watch it play out as publishers continue to get more invasive and users get fed up.
to me the most obnoxious are the autoplay ones with lots of noise. They blast my ears and irritate me well beyond all others. Autoplay without sound isn’t nearly as bad.
I don’t mind tracking ones except when they keep repeating the same thing. Ok I wanted something and bought it. You don’t sell more by pitching the same item over and over when I already got what I needed. I don’t need a houseful of TVs I bought one and no amount of ads will get me to get more.
Youtube ads that let you skip after a few seconds don’t bug me. I am getting video and got to pay for it one way or other. What I mind again is when they repeat the same targeted ad. You don’t get anything by telling me the same thing ten times an hour. Ok I got the message that somebody is offering me something. Youtube will do better by pitching something different next.
Totally hear you Rob. I think you are very similar to a lot of people on this subject. Good input!