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What's the deal with Ad Blocking?

24th Nov 2015

Ad blocking is the use of third party software to do exactly that - block ads. There’s a plethora of ad-blocking software out there, online, which will rid you of those sometimes irrelevant, often annoying ads you’re confronted with as you try to browse your favourite websites.

While not a new phenomenon, ad blocking is becoming more prevalent. Until recently, it was only possible on desktop browsers. Such a feature wasn’t available on mobile devices. However, the rollout of iOS9, the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system, included a “content blocker” feature for iPhones and iPads. All it requires is the download of a content blocker app from the App Store and then the turning on of the content blocker in the device’s settings…

This new addition to iOS brings ad blocking to the more casual consumer. No longer is it solely an invaluable desktop tool on the belt of the tech-savvy, it’s now found its way onto our mobile devices. 

A quick glance at the stats will tell you that iOS devices equate to less than 14% of the Smartphone OS Market Share, which may make you want to downplay the advent of ad blocking on iOS devices. However, the implications of these ad blockers reportedly extend further than the blocking of ads themselves.

The websites of US retail giants Sears, Walmart and Walgreens suffered major functionality issues from preventing users adding products to shopping carts, to whole webpages simply going blank and refusing to display! 

Moreover, on Cyber Monday last year 78% of mobile shopping took place on iOS devices and Chris Mason, CEO of Mobile Commerce firm Branding Brand suggested the impact of ad blocking could be significant this coming Christmas season. Not only could customers be deterred and even prevented from completing transactions on their iOS devices this year, retailers themselves face the prospect of being what Mason calls “data-blind or at least data-dark”, a situation where retailers will not have the data they would normally be able to review from website visits and transactions.

So what does this mean for advertisers, for websites and for the user? Unsurprisingly, ad blocking is a very real and very serious threat to the entire advertising industry and to retailers. Brands rely on advertising to spread brand awareness and drive sales and revenue/profits, advertisers rely on the success of their adverts to get more work and the sites they advertise on rely on the advertising for their revenue. 

Whilst you may think ad blockers make the internet a better place to be, if this becomes too widespread then you, as a user, could face having to pay to view content on websites if the websites can’t afford to run without the advertising spend. 

So what does the future hold for the advertisers themselves? Well, expect to see more native advertising in such forms as sponsored content, advertorials, branded micro-sites etc. with the ads presented in a way that makes users want to view/read and engage with them. After all, this is the primary reason why so many of us are installing these programs to block ads – namely, we aren’t interested and don’t want to view them! 

Being less “in your face” with display ads in this way could even make people less likely to block ads on your own website, as they aren’t being confronted with your brand everywhere they turn online. 

Appealing to your users/customers’ good nature and requesting that they not use ad-blocking software in order that they may continue enjoying the content they love free of charge, may help. If you spell it out, users will then know that by blocking ads, they are engaging in a direct attack on your business and its operations, threatening the free content they have come to naturally expect from you. The general thought, however, is that advertisers are going to have to seek out other quality revenue streams to counteract this boycott of ads online.

It is reported that Apple ultimately made this move to allow ad blockers on its iOS devices so that users, but more crucially advertisers, will migrate over to the use of apps. Traditional online advertising is largely Google’s baby, so this desire to direct users and advertisers towards mobile apps will greatly benefit Apple through such advertising revenue in-app. Oh, and did I mention that in-app advertising is very difficult, if not impossible, to block? 

Cunning move, Apple, bravo.