Ad blocking has become a hot topic of late in integrated marketing circles. More and more software is being introduced to filter or remove advertising from webpages because people have become tired of having their content overwhelmed by sales pitches.
One in five smartphone users now block ads in one form or another, a 90 percent increase.
Or they’re annoyed by the longer load times, especially on mobile platforms. Or having blaring commercials pop up with distracting sounds, especially when you’re trying to work. (It happened to me while I was researching this article.)
My personal pet peeve is when ads are the first thing to load, while you tap your foot waiting for the stuff that was the very reason you clicked to arrive!
The potential financial impact is huge, and getting bigger all the time. The global digital marketing marketplace amounted to $78.6 billion in 2015, and is expected to reach $122 billion by 2019, according to Magna Global and Cowen & Company.
Getting beyond the details of how ad blocking works — should we be blocking ads at all? After all, this is the primary vehicle by which content-based websites earn their revenue. If you take that away, the websites and their content will wither, too.
Having come from a newspaper-based background, this prospect scares me. Ditto for television and the rise of Tivo and other DVR devices that let you skip past commercials with the flick of a button.
It almost seems like we’re setting digital media up for a repeat of the long, gradual-then-faster decline of traditional media.
Another question to ask is if blocking advertising can actually decrease the user experience. With contextual advertising, especially on social media platforms like Facebook, you see ad content based on your web history — so you’re guaranteed to see stuff that genuinely interests you.
Speaking for myself, I like this sort of outreach from companies. I look, I click, I buy.
As Brian O’Kelley of Forbes puts it:
“Here’s the standard I would suggest that we apply: If ad blocking doesn’t promote a more open and dynamic Internet – if it makes the Internet smaller, erects toll booths and pay walls, or transforms it from a democratic system to an oligarchy of information and content – then it isn’t fulfilling a public good.”
Some are even worried about an ad blocking epidemic. One of the problems is that users who are tech-savvy, early adopters and gamers tend to be those who employ ad blocking software the most. And, of course, that’s a demographic that advertisers desperately want to tap.
My own take is that ad blocking, like most things, can be beneficial in moderation. But when you’re saying “no” to the majority of content being pitched your way, you’re sure to miss out on things that you actually want to see. That’s a lose-lose-lose situation: for you, the advertisers and the websites.