How to Break Through in an Ad-Blocked World

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Ironic that 2015 will be remembered as the year we said goodbye to “Mad Men” and hello to ad blockers.

Last year’s Ad Blocking Report by PageFair and Adobe suggests ad-blocking software usage rose more than 40 percent in 2015 to nearly 200 million active ad-block users globally, for an estimated $22 billion hit to publishers. This year, ad blockers will result in an estimated $20.3 billion loss in the U.S. alone. And since iOS 9 added an ad-blocker to Apple’s Safari browser, the trend is now spreading to mobile.

Consumers have made it clear they just don’t want to be tracked across the web. So while this battle against banner ads wages on, marketers continue moving toward more effective advertising methods. These are a few of our favorites.

Native advertising

Even with their ability to target audiences based on age, income, and other demographics, banner ads frequently miss the mark, hitting either the wrong person or the right person at the wrong time. Native advertising developed in response to this challenge.

Native advertising — which we’ll describe as paid placements that closely mimic the format and tone of the platforms they’re posted on — are extremely versatile. Big brands such as Microsoft, Dell, and Netflix have imaginatively applied the concept to video, branded posts, and even a pseudo newspaper “exposé.” Despite the differences in the ad products used in these examples, each so perfectly matches the tone and style of the publication in which it appeared that if you removed the brand name, you probably wouldn’t know it’s an advertisement.

Research shows consumers respond to these types of contextually relevant ads. According to a neuroscience study, native ads received 52 percent more visual focus than banner ads. Other research showed they drove 18 percent higher purchase intent than banner ads. And yet another found that high quality native advertising content increases trust in the sponsoring brand. Key caveat: Native ads that are not published directly by site owners may also be subject to ad blockers.

Social ads

Just a few years ago, no one could have predicted what a powerful player social advertising would become. U.S. advertisers will spend $9.6 billion on social media this year, and that number will hit $36 billion globally by 2017.

Social ads have a number of advantages over traditional advertising, including low cost, targeted focus and real-time analysis. And they’re effective. Desktop Facebook ads have an 8.1 times higher click-through-rate than conventional web ads (it’s 9.1 times higher for mobile Facebook ads). And Twitter’s 1-3 percent engagement is much better than the 0.06 percent click-through-rate for most display ads.

Content marketing

Interest in content marketing continues to rise in response to the diminishing effectiveness of traditional online advertising. According to a Content Marketing Institute study, 83 percent of B2B marketers have embraced content creation and 42 percent of them publish new content daily or several times per week.

While measuring content marketing’s effectiveness has proven tricky, what’s clear is the best content programs are grounded in a strong content marketing strategy and consistent delivery of compelling content. When done well, there are few better tools for building brand equity and fostering long-term customer relationships.

Marketing guru Seth Godin has said “the best advertising is the advertising we would miss if it was gone.”

The bleak ad-block numbers only reinforce the value of your audiences’ time and attention. By complementing the web experience rather than disrupting it, these banner-ad alternatives promise to deepen customer relationships, inspiring clicks rather than blocks.

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Rack Blogger is our catchall blog byline, subbed in when a Racker author moves on, or used when we publish a guest post. You can email Rack Blogger at blog@rackspace.com.

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