How advertisers and publishers can address the challenges of mobile ad blocking

Jon Williams
News site on tablet and mobile
"Advertising formats must offer a less-disruptive experience" (Source: Getty)

It is wise to assume that ad blocking will be with us in the long-term, however, mobile advertising will most certainly live on.

The rise of ad blocking on smartphones and tablets gives advertisers and publishers a prime opportunity to reassess their approach to targeting consumers and to optimise the content that they provide.

Also at stake here is the wider issue of the open Internet. Arguably by aligning with ad blockers, companies like Apple are aiming to concentrate eyeballs, effectively taking ownership of the advertising ecosystem on their operating system and ultimately at the expense of the smaller players.

Read more: The rise of mobile ad blockers has the advertising industry worried

Advertisers need to focus on providing relevant and engaging ads. Good content is good content. If consumers enjoy what they see and feel that it speaks to them, they will not be compelled to block it.

For those in our industry, the onus is on us to effectively target audiences based on their likes and dislikes – actual and perceived, current and predicted – ensuring that we serve ads that match the needs and interests of consumers. Advertising is not one-size-fits-all.

Improved ad relevancy through audience-targeting is just the first step in discouraging ad blocking. Creative ad formats need to be more sympathetic towards the user experience.

Read more: Why ad blocking is good for the advertising industry

Both publishers and advertisers need to rethink the placement of banners, interstitials and pre-roll video. Advertising formats must offer a less-disruptive experience.

Publishers should therefore consider altering the formats they offer, in line with revenues from traditional advertising beginning to dwindle. Smart alternatives may consist of providing in-app content or exploring options in native advertising.

It is inevitable that some will try combating revenue threats via the launch of paywalls, while others may follow The Guardian’s lead by optimising their content for the likes of Facebook therefore encouraging shares and blurring the editorial-commercial boundary.

There is however a limit to what publishers can do.

The turn-key moment will come when enough consumers wake up to their choices regarding content consumption, and the willingness of the majority to either a) pay publishers for ad-free content, b) view it in different mediums, or c) own, manage and monetise their own data, can be properly measured.

There is therefore a strong argument for the industry to better-educate mobile users on the economics of advertising, for example many are likely to tolerate adverts if the alternative is having to pay for their favourite content.

Once the issues around ad blocking and associated knock-on effects come into focus, both publishers and advertisers will be in a better position to plan their next moves. However, the power ultimately lies with the consumer. The future of mobile ad blocking is quite literally in consumers’ hands, being determined by how they choose to experience content.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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