Google announced last week that its Chrome browser – which today claims about 58 percent of the browser market – will begin blocking ads beginning on February 15, 2018.
Not all ads will be blocked, of course: only those running on sites that Google determines are failing to adhere to standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads. Such ads, according to the Coalition, include, on desktop, “pop-up ads, auto-play video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown and large sticky ads,” and, on mobile, “pop-up ads, prestitial ads, ads with density greater than 30%, flashing animated ads, auto-play video ads with sound, poststitial ads with countdown, full-screen scrollover ads, and large sticky ads.”
How should marketers respond?
Users block ads for legitimate, compelling reasons. These include saving money on their mobile data plans, avoiding malware, blocking trackers, and to keep themselves from being annoyed by ads that take over their screens and therefore place a roadblock between them and the information they want to find. At the same time, however, users aren’t always averse to seeing advertisements, as long as they are relevant, non-obtrusive, and information-rich (all reasons that search ads are accepted so readily by users).
Some publishers have expressed alarm that Google has decided to incorporate ad-blocking at the browser level, accusing it of using its dominant position in digital advertising to dictate terms. But if you’re a marketer, you really don’t have much to worry about, as long as you employ the following common-sense tactics:
- Take a hard look at the ads you (or your agency) are running. You obviously don’t want to be using any ad format identified by Coalition for Better Ads as a prohibited ad type. So what kind of digital ads should you be running? DoubleClick (owned by Google) recommends that you:
- Use the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) framework for any digital ads you run. These ads load many times faster than conventional banner ads, increasing viewability and (presumably) eCMPs and CTRs. Make sure your destination pages are AMP-compliant as well.
- Use native ads. While native advertising is controversial given that users don’t always know whether the content they’re seeing has been paid for, native ads aren’t on the list of proscribed ad types, and, because they “blend in” with adjacent editorial matter, are well accepted by viewers.
- Make your ads relevant and respectful. Any attempt to force the user’s attention to your messaging will likely fail in 2018. Use the rich data provided by programmatic technology platforms to show ads to audiences likely to be in-market for your products and services.
Beyond making better digital ads, marketers should consider alternative mechanisms to reach their objectives. These include:
- Doubling down on earned media.Because earned media content (otherwise known as “organic media,” “unpaid media,” or “content marketing”) will pass safely through ad blocking software, earned media will continue to be a viable channel for getting your message out. Evaluate your marketing budget to see whether you’ve allocated enough to the earned media channel.
- Fully leveraging first-party data.Ad blockers have zero effect on your ability to reach people who’ve opted into your messaging via subscriptions, social media, or via your Point of Sale presence. People who’ve already expressed approval of your messaging through subscriptions or other signals of assent have never been more valuable. These people constitute “Custom Audiences” that can be easily reached on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Expanding your marketing horizons offline.Ad blockers – whether incorporated on the browser or browser plug-in level, can’t block your ads if you mail them to people, put them on billboards, or use traditional broadcast media to air them. Direct mail — when combined with digital capabilities — is an excellent mechanism that’s underutilized today because so many marketers have been attracted to digital media’s efficiencies. Make sure your marketing plan is well-rounded and includes all channels – offline and on – relevant to reaching your best prospects.