Over the past decade, digital advertising has evolved from being static display ads to complex omni-platform format with tons of advanced features, from dynamic messaging to interactive video.

Another thing that has been evolving at the same rapid pace is ad-blocking software. For all the time we’ve been hammering away at solutions to drive revenue for brands and publishers, we’ve forgotten about one important issue — ads irritate people (except for those shown on Cannes Lions — people really love them).

Not to make unsubstantiated statements we’ll show you a few numbers provided by PageFair:

· 11% of the global internet population, which is over 615 million devices, block ads on the web

· Over the last year, mobile adblock usage grew by 108 million to reach 380 million devices

· At the same time, desktop adblock usage grew by 34 million to reach 236 million devices

All these adblocked devices may cost the digital advertising industry billions of dollars in the near future. So if we ignore what users want from advertising we’ll soon be unable to advertise at all. After all, even the most cutting-edge targeting and media buying techniques will become useless if there’s no one to see your ad.

User doesn’t want to be disrupted

E-Commerce was the first one to benefit from all the opportunities that digital advertising had to offer. Place an ad, get more clicks, lead people to your landing page and increase your sales — quite a common technique, isn’t it? For these purposes pop-ups and banners were designed — they exist to get people’s attention (and their clicks) at all costs.

The more ad-blind the audience became, the more disruptive became the ads. Publishers and brands started transporting ads to mobile screens, trying to engage users with sound and visual effects, depriving them of the opportunity to simply skip the ad. It was only a matter of time before adblock came to the masses.

What to do?

According to the same PageFair report, even though users strongly dislike most of the ad formats, some of them are tolerable.

The most preferable ad formats are good old banners, skippable video ads, and quality native ads. These non-interruptive formats don’t frustrate or irritate people, and are broadly accepted. Using them, you’re more likely to get highly motivated leads if you are an advertiser, and more profitable traffic if you are a publisher.

User wants some use

We usually surf the Internet for a purpose: whether it is searching for useful info or just killing time. Useless, unexciting ads create some kind of noise distracting us from our goals. Vegetarians are not interested in a new steakhouse just around the corner, Android user will never download an app for iOS, women won’t put a beard trimmer to good use, and men (well, most of them) will not appreciate new fancy lipstick. It’s not a big deal when an ad is just boring — people simply ignore it. But when it becomes embarrassing or even offensive (e.g. adult content) — it will be shut down very soon.

Poor targeting opportunities are a problem of many advertising networks. Placing an ad without considering the person on the other side of a screen makes it look like an attempt to sell a product no matter to whom. But at the same time, any product may become the best way to solve a certain problem for a user.

What to do?

No matter who we are — advertisers, publishers or network owners — we should take into an account the fact that different people find different things useful, neutral or unacceptable. The country, the device and basic behavioral factors are must have settings for any ad network. It’s also important not to become too precise, as some users start thinking they are sought after. Worries about personal safety are an even more common reason for installing the adblock.

User wants to have a choice

No one likes to be forced. Even the most creative and useful ad inspires resentment when it can’t be skipped. The more insistent the ad, the more resistant the user becomes. As proof — look again at the most annoying formats chart. Skippable and non-skippable videos remain on different sides of the trench.

What to do?

Launching non-invasive, lightweight and opt-in ads that allow consumers to control how to engage with them is a great way to rebuild trust. Don’t worry that users will never choose to watch your ad — many surveys have shown just the opposite results.

For instance, research by Unity has shown that 71% of mobile gamers prefer watching adv videos as a way to pay for an extra life or unique game item. Such rewarded ads are considered to be the most user-friendly format.

At the same time, the A-VOD services — the platforms providing free access to video content for an agreement to view ads — stay the most popular among US mobile users (data by Ericsson ConsumerLab). The most common example of A-VOD service is YouTube (in-stream ads work well with funny cats).

So giving users a choice and rewarding them for time they spend watching your promo-content is the best way to gain their attention and loyalty.


The communication between users and brands should be a two way street. If you listen to what they want, they will gladly listen to what you have to offer. It’s a win-win strategy that brings benefits to both sides, as well as to mediators such as mobile advertising agencies and networks.