How will ad blockers change mobile advertising?


Ad blocking is nothing new. It has been developing popularity for about five years. The recent rapid growth in uptake, however, means the threat to the advertising industry is increasing.

As mobile advertising is consistently rising with increasing consumer use, mobile ad blocking specifically is a risk the industry needs to pay close attention to.

The recent announcement from tech giant Apple — outlining that ad blockers will be allowed in the next version of Safari mobile browser alongside Adblock plus creating their own browser — means the mobile industry needs to take notice of this trend. The increase in video consumption (and therefore pre-roll video ads) is often blamed for the increase in use of ad blockers, where users can become frustrated in seeing time pass by while waiting for their content.

With the explosion of mobile video consumption, it is not hard to see that the ad blocking trend could continue into mobile. With the increase in availability for ad blockers, brands need to ensure their ads on mobile don’t ruin the experience, but instead aid it with video. 

This shows another reason for the importance of having mobile-specific creative. It is becoming increasingly important for brands to communicate with relevant information at the right time. This increases the usefulness of advertising to consumers and reduces the likelihood of consumers removing this element from their content consumption. 

Although there is a lot of buzz around the topic (the main extension Adblock plus was initially released in 2006), the uptake has been relatively limited in the United Kingdom. Stats from the IAB suggests only 15% of British adults currently using ad-blocking software on desktop, and this drops to 3% in mobile.

Within mobile, most of the ad inventory is also available from apps — 80%/20% in favour of apps vs. mobile Web — as this is where consumers spend the majority of their time (owed to the better user experience) the threat is potentially not as strong as it is on desktop.

Essentially, there are two key points that need to be considered:

  1. Consumers need to be educated on the fact that the free content they are consuming is funded by ads, and without advertising the content wouldn’t exist. This is in publisher’s best interest. And when increasing amounts of their inventory is being served on mobile, they need to communicate the importance of advertising to users in the mobile environment.

  2. Advertisers need to move away from invasive and interruptive adverts and become more useful for the consumer, through native ads and branded content. Mobile is often seen as a more personal device, so producing more “native” or “in feed” placements (e.g. BuzzFeed articles) can give a better user experience and could encourage engagement and reduce “banner blindness.” 

This is another industry-wide challenge that has begun on desktop and is transferred to mobile. The mobile industry and brand advertisers can learn from desktop developments and react ahead of the movement, which could help gain competitive advantage. It’s going to be interesting to see the impact the mobile browser developments have now and in the future.

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