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Adblock Users Aren’t All the Same - So Stop Treating Them as if They Are

Feb 8, 2019 7:30:00 AM

What’s worse than showing consumers ads that they don’t want to see? Writing those consumers off entirely and assuming they’re part of a large and ever-growing class of “unmarketables,” rather than understanding the nuances associated with adblocking behavior.

Yes, adblocking is definitely a trend that shows no signs of stopping.  And while the extent to which consumers will block ads varies widely based on where they’re from, and the content of the site they’re visiting, as the IAB puts it, adblocking is a “globally pervasive phenomenon” that cannot be ignored.

When I talk to marketers and other companies in the ad tech ecosystem about reaching users who have an adblocking mechanism installed, they’re often understandably skittish. Although most ad buyers would agree that advertising is the lifeblood of a free and open Internet, and that using an adblocker deprives publishers of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work – many of those same marketers think it’s too controversial to try and show their ads to those users.

If the conversation were to end there, it would be a lose-lose-lose. The media company or publisher would miss out on a critical monetization event, the marketer would miss an opportunity to reach a potential customer or prospect, and the consumer would be deprived of a chance to learn about  a product or service they might benefit from.

But that needn’t be the outcome. There are companies – including our own – that can help revive the broken connection between marketers and consumers, by offering a balanced and sustainable ad experience, even when an adblocker is present. To understand how requires a quick overview of the decision-making process that leads up to using an adblocker.

Adblocking (and Consent) is a Choice

The rise in adblocking is almost directly correlated to an increase in both the number of ads, and the level of intrusiveness of those ads, on the average publisher’s website. We know this because when installing many adblockers, consumers have the choice to opt in to non-invasive forms of advertising, and thankfully, most do1.

A minority opt out of seeing even non-invasive ads – these are the folks who just don’t want to be exposed to online advertising. At all. Ever. For now, they are mostly lost to marketers, and I’d agree that we shouldn’t undertake heroic measures to “force-feed” them our ads. (After all, these “hostile” users tend to be a very vocal minority).

Fortunately, that subset of advertising-averse users is indeed the minority. In contrast, the users who have opted in to non-invasive advertising represent a significant opportunity for marketers and publishers.

Not all adblock users are alike

That’s because these people are explicitly not zealots who have a moral objection to all forms of marketing – instead these are people like you and me who just want to take more control over their internet experience. They recognize that quality advertising plays a critical role in the value exchange that makes content on the Web “free” to consume, they just want a more acceptable ad experience while consuming it.

In a world where it’s harder and harder to reach users (with consent), and where publishers can’t afford to leave any revenue on the table, we should not hesitate to market to these users.  We just need to commit to doing so in a way that is consistent with a common standard for displaying non-invasive advertising.

To be clear, successfully reaching these users means that advertisers, technology platforms and publishers must be more surgical in determining their strategy for adblock users. It also requires a willingness to acknowledge that the vast majority of adblock users simply want a cleaner, more sedate advertising environment to ride alongside the content they consume.

To date, the “all or nothing” approach to reaching adblock users has been the default. But to ignore the ~400M people that have opted into an acceptable, lightweight ad experience would be to ignore an opportunity to treat a great deal of users with the respect they deserve. Navigating the adblock landscape is tricky, but the reward for marketers and publishers that do is an intelligent, affluent and tech-savvy audience of consumers that is indeed, well worth addressing.

1Analysis of the websites in our portfolio shows that ~70% of all adblock users that visit these sites have opted in to seeing lighter ads

Marty Kratky-Katz

Written by Marty Kratky-Katz

Co-founder & CEO at Blockthrough