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Ad Blocking Is Inevitable, But the End Is Actually Not Near

19:19 29 September in Digital Advertising
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Apple’s release of iOS 9 last week put a sharper edge on an issue that has been keeping everyone in the marketing, advertising and adtech industries up at night for quite some time: what are we going to do when the majority of our users are blocking our ads? Is it time for an ad vs. ad block arms war?

I think the first thing to realize is that this is not a new problem and it didn’t appear overnight when Apple released their new mobile OS. On the desktop, something near a majority of users are already using ad blockers – look in the Google Chrome store and you’ll see ad blocking apps near the top of the charts. Heck, AdBlock, to name one extension, has over 10 million users and 200 million downloads to date.

We can go back and forth on what’s ethical or not, or who is stealing from whom, but the bottom line is that consumers have spoken and they want to block ads. Chances are you’re reading this on a browser that’s using some sort of ad blocking software.

There are two main objections to the display ads that are being blocked by this kind of software:

  1. I don’t want to be tracked, at least not without opting in and knowing who is collecting my data and how they’re using it.
  2. My experience is being ruined by overly aggressive pop-over/under/alongside ads. Khoi Vinh’s example – his inability to scroll a NY Times article about ad blocking because of an intrusive ad provides an example of both this and of irony.

But again, it doesn’t matter why they’re blocking them – they are. And Apple just dropped a big bomb in the middle of the fray by making it far easier to block content on the hundreds of millions of iOS devices in the market. And guess what? Demographically speaking, iOS users tend to be the ones who buy more stuff.

There’s a little good news in here though, and that’s that these content blockers may be blocking Web display ads, but they’re not blocking the native platform ads in social networks like Twitter and Facebook – in other words, they’re not blocking any ads in the mobile apps for these networks (which is how most users access these networks, rather than via the Web).

So regardless of ad blocker adoption, you can still get ads in front of users via social platform ads. And that’s actually a very good thing, because social platform ads – with the help of data like that we provide at Mblast – can actually be far more highly targeted and responsive than even the best display ads. With far less “creepy” tracking people across the Web.  These ads are targeted because you can find people who are publicly raising their hands and expressing purchase intent , and their less creepy because there’s no need to spend a lot of time and money building up a demographic profile based upon a multitude of sources tracking users’ every move on the Web.

What we can provide is simple: lists of social handles of people who have – in their public content – stated an intent to purchase. It could be someone saying they need to buy a new battery for their car, someone discussing the smart TVs they’re looking at, talking about switching mobile carriers, or discussing a forthcoming vacation; whatever it is that you sell, someone, somewhere is asking about it on the social Web. And you can be standing by to present them with an offer, ad blocker or not.

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