Before the advent of TiVo and the DVR, the creatives who made television commercials faced the ultimate ad-blocking challenge. If their 30-second spots for light beer, dog food or any other consumer product failed to connect, the target audience would block that message by getting off the couch and fixing themselves a snack. Creatives fighting this problem learned to combat it not by removing the consumer’s ability to make a sandwich, but by creating better content – funnier, more helpful, more interesting ads consumers were more likely to absorb.
That challenge got harder when consumers got the power to easily record and fast forward through their favorite shows or watch via commercial-free streaming services. And so, creatives adapted again – leaning heavier on product placements, sponsorships and ad buys during (what remains of) appointment television.
Ad blocking is a gift to publishers and brands
There is a lesson here for publishers and brands that advertise online. There’s been plenty of hand-wringing about the proliferation of ad blocking apps. It’s time we call ad blocking what it is: a gift. There is no better way for consumers to tell us that our ads aren’t connecting than to block them. This is the clearest signal brands will get that they can, and should, be doing better.
Ad blocking is a conversation starter. Here are three ways publishers can respond:
1) It’s not you; it’s me.
When consumers block ads, they’re telling marketers the current relationship isn’t working. This is an opportunity to salvage what you have before it’s gone. Say, “We hear you. And we can do better.” Find different methods for meeting prospects where they are, like baseline subscriptions or email sign ups, or perhaps “unlocking” the site for a day if they watch a 30 second video or complete a survey, which could turn into another source of revenue.
2) You're not like everyone else.
You’re not like everyone else. Personalization technology should allow brands to build more tailored experiences. It’s up to them to not only collect and analyze data about consumer behavior online, but to act on it. It has never been more important to tailor offers, subscriptions and content. Consider providing a “bendable” paywall where users can select the amount and combination of daily of content access and ads that they desire, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
3) I’d like to see more of you.
Users showed up on your site, so there is clearly something they like about what you are offering. Can you distill this down to their specific interests and offer personalized newsletters or invite them to try your new products (via chatbots, or other methods) to engage them further?
Ad blocking lets consumers tune out the noise. Marketers should respond not by shouting louder, but by delivering more meaningful, tailored content and messages that encourage audiences to tune in.