We've entered a new era of online ad blocking.
In the early 2000s, pop-up ads were all the rage and seen by most consumers as a cost of free content. Within four years, all major web browsers allowed users to block pop-ups, and advertisers invested further in banner ads along with the burgeoning market of search advertising.
Fast forward a dozen years, and on the verge of another burst digital advertising bubble: the resurgence of ad-blocking software. According to the 2015 Ad Blocking Report from PageFair:
- Ad blocking estimated to cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015.
- There are now 198 million active Adblock users around the world.
- Ad blocking grew by 41 percent globally in the last 12 months.
- U.S. ad blocking grew by 48 percent to reach 45 million active users.
According to the Guardian, in an article with the frightening headline, "The rise of ad-blocking could herald the end of the free internet": "Since these estimates come from sources that have vested interests in this area, they should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, but there's no doubt that ad-blocking is now a big deal. And, as with all of these things, it's led to an arms race between those who create ad-blockers and the people whose products they seek to exclude."
But let's call off the arms race. We have a trusted solution for relevant, contextual advertising that will appeal to consumers while enabling them to receive free content; provide publishers with a much-needed revenue stream to monetize their emails, as web advertising revenues continue to fall; and empower brand marketers to reach consumers on an unblocked path.
Let's take a look at an email newsletter. For consumers, it's content. For publishers, it's an engagement tool. Here's the twist: For publishers, it's also advertising inventory. And for advertisers, it's a new means to reach consumers while they're consuming content for which they have already opted in.
Consumers: You want the publisher's content, otherwise you wouldn't have subscribed or opted in to receive the newsletter.
Publishers: You already have the most valuable asset: your opted-in subscribers who want to hear from you with relevant content. Now, you can partner with advertisers and technology providers to send them additional, dynamic content within the email -- providing subscribers with relevant offers and information, and you with a brand new revenue stream.
Advertisers: You, too, know the pain of the "blocked internet." Marketing emails present a bold new opportunity of an untapped, unblocked means to reach potential prospects -- one that even the best software can't block. Dynamic content such as videos and other creative that provide the look-and-feel of the best web advertising can help convert an entirely new source of prospects.
The hand of the free market -- the "unsubscribe" link
That isn't to say this concept isn't without risk. If the ads are irrelevant, tasteless, or annoying, consumers will merely click on the "unsubscribe" link. Consumers, publishers, and advertisers all play an important role to ensure that the delicate balance between all three parties is respected.
For publishers and advertisers, keep these concepts in mind:
- Choose a trusted technology/"monetization" partner capable of inserting advertisers' great creative into email newsletters. Ideally, this partner has their own ad network or partnerships with others, ensuring you the broadest range of advertisers and capabilities to deliver the right messages to each of your readers, along with a strong capability to measure and analyze results.
- Insist on creative that is truly creative. Partner with companies that can insert dynamic content -- videos that render beautifully on any device, or dynamic content that changes based on geographic location or other customer information -- to surprise consumers with the unexpected: visually appealing, high-quality relevant, informative content.
- Insist on a process of continuous refinement. Work to ensure that campaigns are reaching the right readers, and that they're responding -- and if any campaigns are driving readers to unsubscribe (or even worse, stop opening your newsletters entirely), make changes. Insist on extensive A/B testing to ensure that the quality of ads matches the quality of content within newsletters.
The re-emergence of ad blocking could fundamentally change the delicate balance between publishers, advertisers, and consumers. In the meantime, reaching opted-in subscribers with relevant, dynamic advertisements in emails is a timely path around "the blocked web."