Why Every Marketer Needs To Try Ad Block

Have you ever looked at a web page without ads? The front page of the New York Times? BuzzFeed? A random blog that usually crams multiple IAB units into the right rail? Your eyes blink at first, something feels like its missing.

Our eyes have been so trained to squeeze our line of sight into the middle of the screen, searching for that narrow column of text while studiously trying to avert our gaze from the flashing, colorful, sometimes moving array of display advertising demanding our attention that to not have it there makes the page seem naked and unsupported. (Pun intended).

But this is what millions of millennials are seeing every single day.

Ad block wipes out the sponsored stories on Facebook. It eliminates the pre-roll on YouTube, allowing the user to view hours of video uninterrupted by ads. It lets you scroll through list after list on BuzzFeed, Elite Daily or Thought Catalog without ever running into a sponsored content unit.

Ad Block, AdBlock+, UBlock’s browser extensions act like thick white pixelated paint, coating over billions of ad units across the web. As we look starry eyed towards spending more on programmatic or branded content, we shouldn’t forget that the number of millennials using ad block accelerate.

Unfamiliar with the stats? Let’s review.

Over 200M people worldwide have downloaded some form of ad block.

Mozilla Firefox reports that 200K users per day download ad blocking software. To put that another way: At that rate it would take 3 years and 3 ½ months for every internet using adult in the U.S. to have ad block on their computer.

41% of 18–29 year olds in the U.S. used ad blocking software. 54% of men and 31% of women.

Marketers and publishers that have buried their head in the sand, insisting that this is a desktop problem will face a rude awakening this September, when iOS 9 will include ad block on Safari for the first time. Whatever Apple’s motivations, the impact is swift — the 50 to 70% of page views that come from mobile to publisher sites will be as threatened by ad block as desktop traffic.

Ugh! Are Companies Building Ad Block Extensions Because They Hate Ads?

AdBlock Plus is paid a fee of 30% of additional ad revenues by Google, Amazon and Taboola for showing some ads that don’t distort the page. Motley Fool estimated that blocked ads contributed to 2% in lost revenue for Google.

It’s a delicious market opportunity. Paying off AdBlock Plus has shown that if you can just get enough consumers to use your ad blocker, then Google will pay you too. The result? Multiple market entrants with ad block products who could fragment the market, each taking a portion of an audience. Will they get large enough for Google to pay them? Unlikely. Cumulatively however they may have a tremendous market impact in increasing the total share of users with ad block.

And they acclimate the user to an ad-free experience. So what’s a marketer to do?

Avoid the “Creepy” Factor

We’ve spent the late spring and early summer at Social Data Collective surveying hundreds of ad block and non ad block users on their sentiment towards ads, data, and privacy. Our conclusion: using ad block is about the experience on the web rather than avoiding ads altogether.

55% of women who used ad block and 48% of men were willing to look at ads that were personalized to them. But the key is to not be “too personalized” as to be “creepy.” The word “creepy” appeared over and over in user interviews and comments, as they described being haunted by their web searches in display advertising weeks after they looked for a product. The more personal the search to the user, the more upsetting it was to be “followed” by an ad.

There is an inverse proportion between the sophistication of ad technology and the willingness of young consumers to embrace that targeting.

There were many ironies in our survey of attitudes towards ad block, number one being the willingness of ad block users to look at personalized ads. It makes no sense, unless you think about the context in which it’s delivered.

Users want to see ads that are informative, relevant or entertaining when they are actively seeking that information. Personalization pushed on the user through targeted display ads appears intrusive. Personalization that comes in the form of related content, suggestions while they shop for products, etc. are wins.

Many quoted Facebook as a form of effective personal advertising, where the suggested page likes and sponsored stories appeared highly relevant. Content producers are in one of the best positions to mimic that experience when users are on their site. And the high CTRs of recommendation platforms like Taboola or ZergNet underscore this.

Understand That Data Is An Asset And Reward Millennials For It

Millennials understand that their data is being scattered to the winds, accessible for nearly any company to grab and use. We found that 78% of women ad block users and 70% of men were willing to trade their data directly with brands in exchange for an incentive.

The willingness of ad block users to trade their data at such a high rate was surprising to us, but matches data by PricewaterhouseCoopers who found that 80% of millennials were willing to trade their data for an incentive.

While some millennials said they were afraid of being hacked, many espoused a laissez-faire view that everyone has their data so they might as well benefit from it.

Why is data trading a replacement for advertising? It allows brands who rely heavily on brand awareness campaigns via display advertising and/or sponsored content to connect to users that are blocking their advertising. Incentives delivered for data generate good will and stronger brand connections and, most important, allow consumers to sample products, driving word of mouth.

Monetizing consumers’ data is a new customer acquisition strategy.

What Now?

Download ad block and experience the web ad-free if you’re a marketer to get into the head of your consumers. And then give us a call if you want to talk more.

Social Data Collective is re-inventing the relationship between the brand and the consumer, using personal data to drive customer acquisition, loyalty and ROI. If you want to learn more get in touch: Ashwini@socialdatacollective.com

This report was written by Ashwini Anburajan. Data analysis contributed by Ziquan Miao.