One of the hottest topics this year at this just past Advertising Week in New York was the increasingly prevalent practice of ad blocking. This practice, which allows users to block all or most of the ads they see while visiting various websites, is the growing crisis of the moment and threatens to derail the nearly $60 billion online ad industry.
The Threat of Ad Blocking
When a user chooses to block an ad, that blocked content isn’t delivered and the message is lost, even if the user is the ideal demographic for the advertisement. Users have been taking advantage of ad blockers since there have been ads online, but radio personality Howard Stern’s recent endorsement of the practice means that many more users may jump on the bandwagon.
This makes marketers understandably nervous, with their live television audiences shrinking yearly and moving to ad-free streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Hulu has recently joined the other big players in streaming by adding an ad-free tier to its subscription service, allowing users to pay a premium to avoid advertisements all together.
Digital Ads Aren’t Dead
Despite this news, the future of digital marketing is far from bleak. In fact, digital ad spending is expected to grow this year by 17 percent to $58.1 billion, according to eMarketer. Even though a small group of users are choosing to block ads that would otherwise be served to them through various websites, other users continue to tolerate them.
Whether these users lack the technical comfort to install ad-blocking software, simply tolerate these ads or actively want to view them is another question entirely. Many consumers look forward to ads that introduce them to new products and services, so the real trick for digital marketers moving forward is to find that audience and speak directly to them.
Programmatic marketing may be an answer for digital decline due to ad-blocking technology, but better ads are another. The limited offerings of some digital marketers could be turning audiences off to online messages, since the user views the same ad over and over again. In a strange way, an increase in digital spending could be the secret to convincing those ad-blocking users to give marketing professionals another opportunity to serve them.