Apple’s recent announcement to natively support ad-blocking on iOS9 sent waves through the digital marketing community. This feature will allow developers to create ad-blocking apps that not only affect web browsing, but potentially in-app experiences as well. A long source of revenue for content publishers and a dependable method of brand exposure for advertisers may quickly dry up.
But not all is doom and gloom in this new mobile landscape. Some brands are embracing the changes ad-blocking leads to, most notably a more positive, cohesive user experience overall. By turning to methods like owned content, native advertising and user-generated content (UGC), major brands, advertisers and publishers alike are pushing forward the digital marketing ecosystem rather than clinging to its past. Even local businesses should consider the advent of mobile ad-blocking as an opportunity and a challenge rather than a setback.
No One Likes Digital Display Ads
When we see display ads outside on billboards or in the pages of the magazine, that ad was purpose-built for the
medium on which it resides. Billboard campaign designers know exactly how much room they will have, what the colors will look like and how people will consume the content as they are exposed to it. Most importantly, they can know fairly confidently that no matter how they design their billboard, it won’t cause the road to collapse.
Digital ads, on the other hand, have no one single way to consume them. Users on different devices and with different monitors may have a wildly different viewing experience no matter how hard the digital display team tried. On some screens, the ad may be too big or cover up important links. Many users will even have their browsers crash when ads go bad. These performance issues may have to do with aging hardware or incompatible software, but the bottom line is that the display ad itself contributed to the crash.
On top of all this, digital display ads are annoying and ineffective. They clutter up pages that could otherwise look appealing. Worst of all, no one ever pays any attention to them. Miniscule Click-through rates (CTR) in the 1 percent realm mean that much of the ad space and overhead costs of display simply aren’t worth the time or money.
The first true alternative to display advertising was native advertising. This method takes on the appearance of content around it with only a slight color difference or disclaimer to identify it as advertising. For instance, the New York Times native ads look like articles, and Buzzfeed native ads look like commented photosets or quizzes. Ad blockers almost always skip this type of advertisement since it does not use the typical div tags ad spaces use.
While some have decried native’s camouflaged brand messages as deceptive, the fact that the content must adhere to strict expectations held by other page content enhances quality. More importantly, users identify the ad content as more relevant even if they know straight off that it is a native ad. Because the content resembles the structure and tone of the site content they are there to read anyways, they can consume the ads seamlessly without feeling distracted or annoyed.
While not every local, small or medium-sized business can take the effort to construct a native advertising campaign, they all have the resources to run a blog. Owned content is brand-friendly articles, photo sets and links posted on web space you pay for or on your personal social media pages. Since this content is not an ad in the traditional sense, ad blockers will treat it the same as any third-party publishing site’s content.
The trick with owned content is to try and engage audiences based on the information they will try to seek out anyways. Legal offices can offer information and recent news relevant to their area of practice, for example. Real estate agencies can post articles about how to find a house in a new city or photos of the best neighborhoods in the area. Content like this helps promote services while educating audiences. This digital marketing strategy is preferred by most smaller enterprises since it has low overhead and high potential for returns.
Peer-to-peer communication online via Facebook, Twitter or other social networks has become a huge source of leads for local businesses. By posting about their experiences with a business, a user and customer spreads the word organically through their friend lists. 63 percent of U.S. consumers look for these types of recommendations and reviews when weighing browsing or purchase decisions.
Business sites can go further by directly asking for social interaction. Ask your audience to share their own tips on house hunting, or personal horror stories about buying a home without an agent. Posting highlights from the comments or other forms of user-generated content encourages further engagement.
As more people engage, more of their friends lists are exposed to their activity and brand awareness increases. You can make these interactions seamless by posting commenting or photo submitting widgets onto your site. Built-in systems can automatically show comments on Facebook and on the original post hosted on your site, boosting SEO and doubling the potential exposures as people check back on active comment threads.
What’s Your Digital Marketing Strategy in the Face of Ad-Blocking?
The methods outlined above are not the only possibilities for businesses that used to rely on display advertising, but they are some of the most popular. Regardless, businesses must come to grips with the changes in digital advertising that are bearing fruit in the form of novel approaches.
If you are not sure how to approach digital marketing in light of these changes or if you simply want to beef up your online presence, EverSpark is here to help. Our digital marketing services help you develop a winning strategy that grows your online audience and makes best use of your owned spaces. Click here to find out more.