Without doubt, advertising is a numbers game - the more people you reach, the more effective your ad will be. Ad-blocking software has been available for a number of years, but only recently have consumers begun to take up arms and shield themselves with copious layers of ad-blocking armour.
Recently, leading men’s magazine GQ pushed back against the ad-blockers by asking readers to disable the ad-blocking software or pay to read articles on its website. Unsurprisingly, GQ isn’t the first outlet to attempt this; Forbes, the Washington Post and Yahoo have all made efforts to discourage people from using ad-blocking programs.
However, more than 215 million people - 7 per cent of the entire online population - continue to use ad-blocking software while surfing the web. What’s more, newer versions of Apple’s iOS allow iPhone and iPad users to download apps that block ads in their browsers – another sting for websites reliant on online advertising revenue.
The conscious effort to install ad blockers combined with our spiralling attention spans has made advertising online more difficult than ever. It comes as no surprise then, that in recent years, native advertising and content marketing have shot to the forefront of many PR and marketing strategies.
Unlike traditional advertising, the goal of native advertising is not to disrupt the user experience, but to offer information that is both helpful and interesting to the user. Usually, this will be held on a third party site such as a news website or blog so it isn’t directly associated to your brand and won’t automatically be dismissed as a promotional piece. By offering interesting, informative or thought-proving content, rather than plain adverts, organisations are beginning to implement more complex PR tactics to dodge the ad blockers.
Native advertising in practice
Content giant, Buzzfeed, boasts an ideal platform for brands of all sizes to experiment with native advertising. Music streaming service Spotify took advantage when it published on the with the site in 2015. While some users may disagree with its list of ‘15 bands that wouldn’t exist without Led Zeppelin’, the article certainly grabbed the attention of Buzzfeed’s music loving readers – the ideal Spotify customer. However, native advertising isn’t just about entertainment and pop culture.
‘Women inmates: separate but not equal’ was a piece of thought-provoking native advertising published in the New York Times in August 2014. Offering interesting and educational content on the problems women face in prison, the article simultaneously promoted the upcoming launch of Netflix series, Orange is the New Black – a series that covered on many of the same real life issues. While it’s difficult to tell how crucial this native campaign was to the success of the Netflix series, it certainly gained a lot of attention online.
Today, digital marketing goes far beyond banners and pop-ups. Consumers are consistently bombarded with online adverts, email marketing blasts, light boxes and suggested links. With so much promotional content available, it is only natural that consumers will learn to ignore sales driven content. By offering thought provoking content, organisations can organically connect with their customers - without fighting an ongoing battle against ad-blockers.
By Laura England, account executive at technical PR agency, Stone Junction
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