Ad blocking technology is at the forefront of many marketers minds and understandably so; the number of users who block online adverts (via browser extensions, or other tools) grew by 82% in the year up to June 2015. At this year’s Dmexco, industry experts discussed the impact this could have on the future of the internet and questioned how content providers would be able to continue to provide free online content, should brands lose confidence in online ads.

It’s important we figure this out as an industry. Online advertising funds a massive part of internet freedom. To survive, it needs to evolve. We don’t have the answers yet (although I’m confident the best brains in the industry are already on it), so in the meantime, what practical advice can we give to brands feeling the heat?

To answer this question, we need to look at why people block ads. Why does some advertising content strike a chord and yet most just irritates? One fundamental problem is that so much advertising intrusively forces people to view an ad (“you can skip this ad in 5,4,3…seconds”), rather than focusing on creating content that people actively want or choose to see. It becomes a chore, or a test of patience rather than a meaningful interaction.

Market with people, not at them

If consumers are using ad-blocking technology to prevent advertisers from forcing their message on people, then a more collaborative approach to marketing – in which consumers inform, or even become the media channel – is the antithesis.

Too often advertising focuses on the product. It interrupts and screams “Look at me I’m great, choose me and choose me now…” if a person were to behave the same way on social media we’d cull or at the very least block their updates immediately. Ad-blockers simply enable us to do the same to brands.

Reverse the analogy and think of how we respond to photos and shared experiences and you start to see how brands could, by sharing experiences of the people using their product, create meaningful content. By collaborating with consumers and incorporating real opinion and reviews into marketing communications, it becomes useful and credible. By being mindful of where consumers go to seek out that information and ensuring they find it there (instead of shoving it down their throat when they’re trying to do something else) it suddenly becomes very powerful indeed.

Co-create communications

Advertising needs to evolve from a creator/viewer relationship, to a collaborative effort where brands and their advocates exchange concepts and creations.

The important question to ask here is why do people create content? The answer is twofold. Firstly, it makes them look good! Being seen as having the inside track or expertise elevates social standing. Secondly, consumers want a stake in the brands they love, according to Edelman 87% of people want a more meaningful relationship with brands and they demonstrate this through the content they share.

Once advertisers acknowledge and begin to build their communication strategy around this, they turn the consumer into the media channel, eradicating the need for ad-blocking software. Knowing as we do that peer to peer recommendations are trusted over any other form of advertising (Nielsen), it’s a win-win approach.

Successful advertising isn’t just about clicks or view counts, but engagement and brand loyalty. These factors can be difficult to quantify over the short-term but are both vital to the long-term success of the brand.

Take it offline

If all else fails and the internet goes kaput, solace can be found in the knowledge that two thirds of all word of mouth still happens offline, between real people in the real world.

According to WOMMA one offline impression drives 5% more sales (up to 100% times more) than one paid media impression, and organic word of mouth drives 13% of all consumer sales. In context, all paid media drives 20%-30%. The best advice we can give to brands is to not underestimate the hidden powers of your consumers. Focus on how to collaborate with them to ensure your message spreads far and wide, regardless of what ad-blocking technology throws your way.

 

By Rebekah Mackay Miller, UK MD of trnd.


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