Ad Blocking: A Digital Marketer’s Nightmare?

By Pierce Heska-McJannet, BlueBird Strategies 

Editor’s note: As part of a special arrangement, the below article has been syndicated from the blog of BlueBird Strategies, a Content4Demand partner. 

Ok, nightmare might be a bit dramatic, but ad blocking might be the bane of digital advertising’s existence.

What is ad blocking? Ad blocking is an extension that allows users to block ads before they are loaded by web browsers.The universal definition of an “ad,” as defined by ad blocking extensions, is “anything that isn’t text.” *Insert dramatic horror music here.* 

What is most alarming about ad blocking extensions is that it isn’t a small  group of the tech savvy users utilizing these extensions. Adbock Plus, one of the leaders in the industry, has over 300 million downloads worldwide.

Here are some statistics that might make you steer away from investing in adsif you’re a digital marketer:

On a good note:

  • Less than 4% of ad block users are using it on mobile – Mobile ads for the win! (2015 Ad Blocking Report, PaigeFair)

Why is Ad Blocking being used?

There are a number of reasons people are using ad blocking extensions. Some reasons include page load speed or security concerns, but the majority of people use them simply because they are annoyed with the constant onslaught of advertising. 

It could be argued that digital advertising has taken it one (or maybe two or three steps) too far (those retargeting ads can get a bit creepy). Between flashing banners, auto play videos, pop-over ads, and form fills, ads are around every corner.

If there is one takeaway from this  ad blocking fiasco it’s that, as marketers, we owe it to our target audiences to find new ways to reach them without oversaturating them with useless and annoying ads. Isn’t our whole objective as marketers to reach our ideal buyer in  subtle, yet highly effective and detailed ways? Our ads should be tailor-made for our specific audience with extreme relevancy and accuracy. We have moved away from casting a wide net and should now be focused on small net or spear fishing.

What does this actually mean for marketers?

First the bad news: Research indicates that even blocked ads, in some instances, are still being served by the platform in which you are advertising on. For example, if you have created a display ad, even though it was never viewed on the user’s browser, you may still be paying for that impression. This can have a negative impact on your CTR (click through rate) and if you multiplied this by hundreds of views, it can cost a lot in marketing dollars.

Frustrating, I know. But all hope is not lost, companies are starting to fight back against ad block software. Some very influential websites will not allow ad block users to view their content unless they disable the ad blocking extensions or registers for a subscription. Others are asking for donations to pay for the content that you consume and some are moving to more native advertisements. 

Now for the good news: Adblock Plus has created an “acceptable ads” program, where they worked with their users to come up with a list of what they are calling “non-intrusive” ads. These are advertisements they deem to be acceptable within their software. Marketers are able to sign up and submit their ads to Adblock Plus, with the hopes that they will make the cut.

Native Ads: Digital Marketing Fights Back 

Many platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are offering a new advertising alternative: Sponsored updates, also known as “native ads”. These alternatives to display ads show up in a user’s main feed, under the sponsoring companies account, and are marked as a “sponsored post.”

Native ads are considered non-intrusive and, in the eyes of users, are considered an acceptable form of advertisement. Typically these ads are highly refined and targeted which increases the relevance to the user and increases click-through rate for the company. 

Nightmare? Probably not. 

As marketers, part of our job is to always be evolving. What worked 10 years ago may not work today. What worked last week may not work this week. Ad blocking is an example of the marketplace moving rapidly and, ultimately, we need to be moving with it. And maybe, native advertising is the answer to ad blocking. They allow us to reach the right people at the right times with the right content – without being intrusive. At the end of the day isn’t that the goal? This will make browsing a better experience for the users and give companies a better opportunity to reach their target consumers, despite ad blocking.

Digital Marketers are smart and I have faith we will find a solution to ad blocking that satisfies both the user and the marketer. It might just take some tactical thinking and evolution on our part, but that’s all in a day’s work for the mighty marketer. Don’t fear the unknown. You never know, it might open up a whole new playing field for driving leads and conversions.


Pierce Heska-McJannet is an account coordinator for BlueBird Strategies, assisting customers with their Demand Generation, Content Marketing, and Nurture Programs. He is a creative, enthusiastic and dedicated marketing professional with a passion for B2B Marketing. His technical and analytical mind and understanding of marketing strategy make him an ideal candidate for execution of extensive marketing integrations.