How to Advertise in a World of Ad Blockers

Portrait of Melina Panitsidis
by Melina Panitsidis
Mar 1, 2021
ad blockers illustration

The very first banner ad appeared on the web in 1994. Nobody knew it at the time, but that was the beginning of a billion-dollar industry we now call digital advertising.

Digital advertising changed the web forever, and it didn't take long for the market to become oversaturated with ads. At some point, the ad industry turned the internet into a virtual obstacle course. Users visited a website only to run into countless ads. They wanted a way out.

Enter the ad blocker. A neat tool that— you guessed it— blocks ads.

Ad blockers are a marketer's worst nightmare. Unfortunately, they're not going anywhere. Marketers will just have to get used to the idea of widespread ad blocker usage.

Finding success in a world of ad blockers is less about avoiding them and more about creating an advertising strategy that doesn't compete with them.

Because there is no magic way through ad blockers, but there are ways around them.

Ad blockers: usage and trends

Almost half of the world’s internet users have an ad blocker installed on their devices.

That’s a lot of missed advertising opportunities.

So before we dive into how marketers' can reach ad-blocking audiences, it’s important to understand consumers’ motivations for installing an ad blocker in the first place. Why do consumers feel the need to block ads?

According to a report from GlobalWebIndex, 48% of users said that too many ads drove them to install an ad blocker. Additionally, 47% stated that they blocked ads because they were annoying and irrelevant. Another 44% found ads to be too intrusive. Other reasons included ads taking up too much of the screen, slower page load times, and compromising online privacy.

In short, consumers use ad blockers to protect their user experience.

Creating a better user experience

Consumers expect a lot more from brands now. They want tailored experiences. Spray and pray marketing tactics fail to perform in this new era.

As a result, we've seen a significant shift in focus on the consumer experience. Marketers are putting their audience at the center of their strategies. Before launching campaigns, they do extensive research on their ideal customers' interests, challenges, questions, and pain points to create detailed personas to execute a more effective marketing strategy.

Advertising to the masses with the hope of catching some of your audience's attention won't cut it. Ad campaigns that focus on creating a positive user experience for specific customer personas will come out on top.

At the end of the day, consumers don't hate advertising— they hate bad advertising.

A successful advertising strategy in a world of ad blockers

The question, then, is how can marketers create better consumer experiences with advertising when ad blockers are everywhere?

Contextual advertising > behavioral targeting

Consumers worry about their online privacy. The majority are against brands using their data for ad targeting (RE: 48% of ad block users believe ads are too intrusive).

Behaviorally targeted ads are an easy target for ad blockers to intercept.

Other forms of targeting like, contextual advertising, offer an effective and consumer-friendly solution. Contextual ads allow marketers to target their audience through content. These ad types respect consumers’ online privacy, and ad blockers don’t recognize them.

Contextual ads are also consumer-centric by design. That’s why they tick all the boxes for a good ad experience:

    1. They’re non-disruptive.
    2. They align with a website’s content.
    3. They are relevant to the consumer who sees them.

Contextual advertising is a strategy that benefits both the advertiser and the consumer. It’s a win-win.

Diversify your ad channels

Pre-digital age, advertising consisted of print, radio, TV, and billboard ads. Fast forward to now, and advertising has transformed into an entire ecosystem. Marketers can now choose from a wide variety of ad formats through many different channels.

Why limit advertising to channels that ad blockers are built for with so many other options out there?

Ad blockers aside, a diverse advertising strategy should be a best practice on its own. Think about it. Expanding your advertising campaign across multiple channels will increase success opportunities and deliver better results. A diverse advertising strategy expands audience reach, further increases brand awareness, and drives more conversions. It also minimizes the impact ad blockers can ultimately have on your overall strategy.

Email advertising, sponsored content, and podcast advertising are effective ways to diversify your ad strategy and reach ad-blocking audiences.

Email advertising

Email has proven to be a tried and true marketing channel for decades. Why not double down on its effectiveness through advertising? Dedicated email sends and newsletter sponsorships are powerful advertising strategies with noteworthy benefits.

With email advertising, marketers can reach an audience without spending time on list building because publishers have already spent time building and engaging their audience. Marketers get to borrow this engaged audience through email advertising. And since most publishers require subscription confirmation, marketers can be sure that real people see their ad.

However, one of the greatest benefits of email advertising is the halo effect that comes with it. Publishers put a lot of effort into building trust with their audience, so partnering with them automatically extends that trust to your brand.

Want to learn more about email advertising? This case study outlines how Sysomos (now Meltwater Social) drove over 1,000 net new leads with email advertising.

Sponsored content

80% of people like learning about a brand through content.

Just like email advertising, marketers can partner with publishers on sponsored content campaigns. Sponsored content gives marketers another way to reach an already engaged audience.

While it can take many forms, the sponsored post always aligns with the organic content surrounding it, making it relevant to readers. Marketers who run sponsored content campaigns also see a significantly higher brand lift and brand recall.

Podcast advertising

In the last three years, podcast listeners have grown 54%. In the United States alone, over 100 million people tune into a podcast every month. This growth is still a largely untapped opportunity for marketers everywhere. Now is the perfect time to experiment with podcast ads and incorporate voice into your text-based strategy.

Advertising is constantly changing. That’s why it’s important to explore new ad opportunities and test new formats.

Find the right advertising network

Authenticity in advertising is no longer optional. Consumers see through poorly-executed advertising efforts. Authentic advertising is essential if marketers want to make an impact.

That’s why finding an ad network that you can trust is key. Ad networks help marketers connect with influential publishers so they can authentically reach an audience.

The right ad network will help you find the publishers and ad placements that your target audience will engage with. These are the types of partnerships that can make a brand stand out in today's crowded ad market.

The end goal

Ad blockers are here to stay. Marketers must adapt their advertising strategies accordingly. Focus on the things you can control, like taking advantage of contextual advertising placements, creating a more diverse strategy, and building strong partnerships with a trusted ad network that can help you execute.

Remember that the end goal is to create a better consumer experience with advertising. Not avoid ad blockers. After all, ad blockers are a solution to a problem that the ad industry itself created.