Native Advertising: The AdBlock Antidote?

By Julia Lynn Rubin July 2nd, 2014

AdBlock and Adblock Plus, the web’s most popular extensions and open-source content filters, have offered people a quick-fix solution to make online browsing more seamless and smooth.

“Surf the web without annoying ads!” Adblock Plus proclaims, having roped in over 200 million downloads since 2011. But do web surfers really have a choice when they’re constantly bombarded with intrusive ads? Erik Martin, general manager at Reddit, argues that netizens are being “pushed” into using ad-blocking software just to escape the chaos of pop-up and auto-play video ads that have for so long plagued our modern, broken web.

As more and more web surfers—specifically internet-savvy millennials—continue to take advantage of easy-to-install plug-ins like AdBlock and Adblock Plus, the end of the display and pre-roll ad may not be too far off.

How AdBlock is affecting advertisers

The impact of ad-blocking software has been deeply felt by many media outlets, from giants like Google to small enthusiast sites like Geekzone. In 2012, ad-blocking software alone cost Google roughly $887 million in revenue. In 2013, Geekzone “lost more than a quarter of its display ad impressions” due to ad-blocking software, as publisher Mauricio Freitas told Computerworld in January.

But while companies like Google can afford certain loopholes, like paying their way onto Adblock Plus’s “Acceptable Ads” whitelist, smaller outlets don’t have the same luxuries.

Native advertising: The AdBlock antidote?

Though only about six percent of Internet users are currently using AdBlock, it still looms as a threat to advertisers and publishers alike, especially if younger generations adopt the technology in droves. And while those advertisers and publishers may not be able to stop their ads from being blocked, there is an alternative solution: creating native content that blends into the user’s online experience and doesn’t pester them like a gnat they want to swat away.

“AdBlock technology may appear to be threat to digital advertising on the surface, but the complete eradication of display or pre-roll advertising would result in a significant impact to content owners’ ability to monetize their product,” says Alison Ebbecke, assistant professor of advertising at Temple University. “With advertising revenue streams reduced or eliminated completely, content owners would be faced with either raising increasingly stricter paywalls or reinventing what display or video advertising entails.”

In the past year, we’ve seen nearly every major publisher—from BuzzFeed to Forbes to The New York Times—partner with major brands like Dell and Virgin Mobile to publish sponsored posts on their sites with much success. And we’ve seen brands continue to invest in their owned content plays. Think American Express’s highly popular OPEN Forum, Red Bull’s Red Bulletin, and Net-a-Porter’s celebrity-studded Porter.

And other intriguing experiments are underway. YouTube has found one potential solution: pay-per-view content, which allows popular video creators the ability to offer their loyal fanbases exclusive content for a small price. Meanwhile, OkCupid created a clever banner in place of where ads would normally be on its site. The banner politely asks that users donate $5 in exchange for “removing all ads from the site forever,” and even goes so far as to sympathize with them, referring to display ads as “garbage” content.

The highly popular dating site also offers optional premium services to improve browsing and match-finding, which has proven to be a popular alternative to an ad-riddled interface, and may be a possible solution for smaller companies and publishers who want their exclusive content to come at a cost.

Could this be the start of a new digital advertising world? As Ebbecke puts it, “Advertising will continue to exist in a similar form, even if the packaging or delivery looks slightly unfamiliar.”

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Image by Exit Festival Photo Team
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