Ads, ad-blocking, and the future of online ads


As a social media manager, I love people who overshare. I’m an avid user of Facebook ads for all of our clients, and it is people’s oversharing on social media that allows me to target the ‘right’ people with the ads they want to see. Don’t get me wrong, just because I make ads doesn’t mean I like them. Outside of my 9-5, I can’t stand irrelevant ads following me and popping up when I least expect them. When remarketing or ads are executed poorly they end up looking tacky and spammy: especially when you’ve already purchased a product and you’re still getting duplicate ads pushed in your direction—it’s a waste of my time and their money. *Rant over* So here goes, less of a premonition, and more of an insight into the future of ads and ad-blocking—with a few rant-like paragraphs thrown in for your reading pleasure.

Ads…they’re watching

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Everywhere we turn on the internet, theoretically, we’re being followed. From abandoned clothes in your online cart, to personalised products, companies are clued up with what we’re doing. And where does this all lead? If used well, all of this information can be used to convince us to purchase yet another overly expensive [pair of trainers, bag, book, health food, insert unnecessary item here] that we never really wanted or needed.

Ads have come a long way from their once generalised reach. Now targeting is niche and is backed up by reputable data which, as someone who uses Facebook ads, has made my work more effective by only reaching hyper-engaged audiences.

But of course, nothing ever is that simple: enter ad blocking! Advertisers have been sent into a frenzy by the 198 million people who globally run ad blockers each month. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ad blocking software simply blocks unnecessary ads on certain platforms e.g. some people are unreachable with Facebook/Google ads.

The idea that ad blocking was even introduced just shows what a poor job some marketers were doing at their jobs: producing weak ads, targeted at the wrong people, and making little impact. As Facebook & Twitter ads aren’t blocked by most standard ad-block software packages, social ads are becoming an increasingly popular route for marketers. In 2012, marketer’s dreams were made when Facebook ads were introduced. Some posted ads left, right, and centre, to mass audiences without taking the time to stop and think about who actually wanted what they were selling. But since ad blocking has been introduced, we have been made to actually sit down and think about who will be receiving our ads: considering the user’s experience has become an essential part of a successful ad.

What’s up with Whatsapp and third-party ads?

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Whatsapp, a billion dollar messaging platform, is opening its doors to brands. But they have enforced a strict closed door policy on third party ads: they understand and prioritise their user’s experience. By allowing these big names (such as airlines and banks) to communicate over Whatsapp, brands now have the power to start conversations in spaces that their users are based and are using every day. Rather than just pushing products, they are engaging and enhancing Whatsapp user’s experience. Brands are using this platform to make everyday tasks a whole lot easier: from checking with your bank about fraudulent activity on your account, to your airline messaging you directly with flight delay updates. Whatsapp are making brands work for their ads, forcing them to engage rather than just sell. This is something they pushed on their blog when confirming they are testing tools that allow consumers to “communicate with businesses and organisations customers want to hear from”

So where are ads going?

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Understandably, advertisers are conscious, and somewhat intimidated, by ad block software. As much as they have been kicking about for a while, an increasing number of users are installing them, and, as expected, they’ll continue to get stronger and more effective as time goes on. But it’s not all doom and gloom; for me, there’s three ways to look at adblockers future.

      1. We find ways around ad blocking

Before ads, before the internet, there was a little old thing called offline marketing—remember that? If people don’t want to be bombarded by ads when they’re online, fine, we’re marketers, we can find other ways of introducing our products or brands offline. As marketers, we should be finding new and diverse ways to integrate both online and offline outlets to make the biggest impact we possibly can.

      2. Exclude people who have installed ad blockers

This is an extreme tactic which some brands have already adopted: cutting off users who have installed ad blockers. ITV is a great example of a company which has taken what @digiday called a ‘tough love approach’: blocking users altogether from watching its content online if ad blockers are installed. This drastic measure wouldn’t work for the majority of brands. But kudos to ITV and other TV companies that have taken the plunge: it seems to be working.

      3. Love your customers who haven’t installed ad blockers

Instead of worrying about those already using ad block software, start appreciating the ones who haven’t. Be more creative with targeting, remarket cleverly, and butter your customers up with exciting ads they actually want to see — rather than making them feel like they have to. Basically give the people what they want: interesting, eye catching, shareable ads for brands and products they want to buy into.

Making and pushing out ads is a constant game of cat and mouse: ad blocking software is installed, advertisers get creative, and the circle starts again. With the rise of ad-blocking, we’re going to see a swift rise in social media advertising. Social ads can be woven into our everyday usage without being intrusive or annoying; rather simply fed into our newsfeeds or concealed in the side bars of our Facebook or Twitter homepages. Ads are now becoming more about customers and what they want, than the simple ‘sell sell sell’ of brands and product. With the power to hide ads, rate their relevancy, and use them to enhance our own ad experience, the effectiveness of an ad now ultimately rests with the customer. It is marketer’s job to predict what their customers want, and make ads that they are happy to have on their screens: game on!

Feeling a bit apprehensive about ad blocking? Get in touch for a chat—we’re happy to help.

Ads…they’re watching image cctv graffito.jpg man_with_beard, some rights reserved
What’s up with Whatsapp and third party ads image A (snowy) Day In New York, The All-Nite Images, some rights reserved
So where are ads going? Image I’ve been looking for you everywhere Tim Green, some rights reserved

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