The popularity of ad blockers – software or browser extensions that prevent digital advertisements from being displayed on a user’s device – has been a growing concern for businesses for years.

However, the release of iOS 9 by Apple has recently brought mobile ad blocking back into the spotlight.

The new operating system allows users to block ads on mobile websites, as well as other content that can slow down browsing or consume mobile data. Users can download ad blocking apps from the App Store and enable their preferred blocker through the settings.

While many companies have achieved phenomenal growth on a foundation of paid ads in the past, the threat of mobile ad blocking is becoming more real for brands relying on paid advertising to reach their target audiences.

They must now ask themselves if this is truly an approach that promises to deliver return on investment [ROI] in the long term.

Adapting to the changing landscape

According to research, 63 per cent of millennials are already using ad blockers, proving that the growing trend is greatly reducing the audiences reached through traditional video and banner advertisements.

As users gain more control over what they see and engage with online, now is the time for brands to find new strategies which go beyond traditional advertising approaches and adapt to the changing preferences of users increasingly embracing ad blockers.

The good news is that there are many other avenues brands can explore to ensure their messages reach their target audience effectively.

Embracing native advertising

Native advertising has emerged as a powerful tool against ad blocking. It involves creating ads that match the form and function of the platform on which they appear. Native ads blend seamlessly with the surrounding content, making them less intrusive and more engaging for users. By providing valuable and relevant information, native ads can bypass ad blockers and capture the attention of the audience.

To embrace native advertising effectively, brands should focus on creating content that resonates with the platform’s users. Whether it’s sponsored articles on news websites or promoted posts on social media, the key is to deliver content that feels native to the platform. Collaboration with content creators and influencers can also enhance the authenticity of native ads, further increasing their effectiveness.

Incorporating influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is another valuable way of reaching audiences and ensuring message delivery in an era where ad blockers are prevalent.

Influencer marketing is a human-centric approach which effectively sidesteps the barriers of ad blockers through the power of personal recommendation. It relies on the trust and relationship influencers have with their audience, as when someone’s favourite content creator recommends a product, it doesn’t register as an ad but instead feels like advice from a friend.

This approach is all about authenticity. Through partnering with influencers, brands can engage an audience with genuine storytelling and trusted voices – something an ad simply cannot do.

Data-driven personalisation

Data-driven personalisation offers another lifeline to brands in the age of ad blockers. In research by Adobe, 75 per cent of people said they ‘like’ personalised ads, and a Yahoo study found that consumers find them more engaging [54%], educational [52%], time-saving [49%] and memorable [45%] than general-audience ads.

Furthermore, in a study by McKinsey, it was revealed that personalisation can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales 10 per cent or more.

With the enormous amounts of consumer data available to brands, they have the ability to tailor their message to individuals at a mass scale.

This, together with the growth of AI and machine learning, means businesses are positioned well to identify different audience segments and their preferences, creating personalised content that is highly relevant to each target group.

Building customer loyalty

Website visitors aren’t inherently against ads. Instead, they are against intrusive or irrelevant ads that disrupt their user experience, prompting them to use ad blockers. This is evident in a Wunderkind survey, in which 91 per cent of consumers said they would not purchase from a brand that utilises intrusive or annoying ad experiences.

Clearly, there has never been a more crucial time to focus on customer experience and satisfaction than now.

A better user experience with an organised, intuitive, and inviting website will ensure users are more likely to appreciate ads and less inclined to resort to the ad-blocking defence.

In addition, utilising customer feedback and simply asking them what they think is an incredibly undervalued tool for identifying continuous areas for improvement in the customer experience.

Measurement and analytics

It’s vital for brands to recognise that they could also be losing a lot of analytical data due to ad blockers. In fact, between eight and 25 per cent of traffic data can be lost depending on the web analytics tool used and the type of site being measured.

Ad blockers can affect website data in various ways. Some can block tracking codes that gather data on the people who visit a brand’s website. This prevents analytics tools such as Google Analytics from tracking those users, meaning the users’ activity will not be measured and reflected in the brand’s website data in the usual way.

There are some complex workarounds brands can implement to handle analytics blocked by adblockers, such as using proxy servers and some misdirection or hosting [and modifying] GA on their domain, but this can require intense technical work and may even be obsolete by the time it is deployed.

Alternatively, they can consider using dedicated plugins designed to help them detect visits to their website that are using adblockers, which they can then use to assess the impact of adblockers on their data collection.

Conclusion

Ad blockers have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years, with millions of users opting to avoid ads while browsing the internet.

For brands today, the message is clear. The relentless growth in ad blocker users means these tools will always coexist with online advertising.

There is a silver lining, however. With the vast number of workable tactics and solutions around ad blocking, brands do have the tools needed to survive in this increasingly challenging environment. They just need to be willing and ready to adapt their strategies to address the effects of ad blocking now and in the future.

Managing Director at Sprout Media

Aaron Peters is a leading entrepreneur, multiple business owner and the visionary founder and managing director of Sprout Media, a digital marketing agency focused on transparency and results.

Having started his entrepreneurial journey selling emoji-shaped car air fresheners as just a teenager, today Aaron’s success in leading a dynamic agency reflects his longstanding entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation.