The Web has been abuzz the past few months with talk of Apple’s recent backing of mobile ad blockers. With the release of iOS 9, millions of iPhone and iPad users can now block ads in the Safari browser. And they appear to be doing just that.
Ad-blocking apps topped the Apple Store download list just one day after i0S 9 debuted. This is really no surprise considering how these apps tout their ability to enhance mobile web browsing by hiding online ads that eat up data and slow down web pages.
But what does all this mean for digital marketers, considering that online advertising is such a big piece of the marketing puzzle? Here’s a quick guide to what marketers should know, how they should respond and what they should expect moving forward:
1. What Marketers Should Know
Warning: Ad blockers block more than just display ads. On top of preventing the display of mobile ads, iOS 9 ad-blocking apps can interfere with other types of content, such as analytics tracking. This means marketers may have a harder time gathering data on user behavior, which is often crucial to campaign-optimization efforts.
Marketers may also find that their sponsored content is no longer showing up for those who have enabled mobile ad blocking.
Ad-blocking technology is not new. Ad blockers are getting a lot of airtime lately, thanks to Apple jumping on board, but this technology has been around for years on Android devices and desktop computers.
The availability of ad-blocking apps in iOS 9 is presumably more worrisome than other ad-blocking technology because it opens the door for widespread adoption on mobile devices. And since mobile device usage overtook desktop usage in recent years, marketers know that that’s where customers spend much of their time.
Some businesses may take a bigger hit from mobile ad blockers. Businesses that target young, tech-savvy consumers are prone to negative effects from iOS 9 ad blockers. A study by Adobe and PageFair found that young adults ages 18 to 29 are those most likely to download and use ad-blocking apps.
These individuals use the newer model mobile devices that allow ad blocking, and they know how to install and enable the blockers.
2. How Marketers should respond
Create 'good' web ads.
According to TapInfluence’s “The State of Ad Block, 2015” ebook, most people are okay with “good” advertisements -- meaning relevant static ads or skippable video ads that don’t interfere too much with the browsing experience. People who use ad blockers do so because they aren’t willing to view intrusive pop-up ads or ads with automatic sound.
Accordingly, marketers should consider creating ads that are simple, relevant and a natural part of the experience. Teads' “10 Steps to Engaging, Not Enraging, Users” offers advice for improving online ads, including eliminating pop-up ads and targeting ads to improve relevancy.
Try other types of advertising.
Some online ads -- namely, those native to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram -- can’t be hidden by ad-blocking technology. So, marketers would be wise to try advertising on social media platforms. Ads on those sites (e.g., Twitter cards) tend to be pretty well received since they fit with the natural flow of the sites and don’t feel like a forced experience.
Plus, U.S. mobile users spend most of their smartphone time on popular social apps, so one social advertisement could have vast reach.
Focus on driving traffic organically.
Instead of worrying about how their web ads may be affected by ad blockers, marketers should focus on driving qualified traffic to their websites without paid ads. Content marketing, social media marketing and email marketing are all great ways to drive organic traffic. Producing and sharing relevant, helpful blog posts, ebooks and webinars gives businesses opportunities to show up in search engines and reach consumers in a natural way.
3. What marketers should expect in the future
Ad-blocking technology is not going away anytime soon. The mobile marketing landscape is clearly shifting in this age of ad blocking, and marketers must adapt if they want to succeed. iOS 9 ad-blocking apps are still fairly new, so it’s likely they will change somewhat over time.
While many of the blockers on the market right now hide all ads, blockers of the future may function more like website crawlers to remove only spam advertisements. That could be advantageous for mainstream advertisers and customers alike.