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5 Tips for Marketing Success in an Age of Ad Blocking

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Age of Ad Blocking

Unfortunately for marketers, ad blocking is not going away anytime soon. More and more people recognize the advantages of ad-free internet and opt for one or another ad blocking solution.

Because people are blocking ads at an increasing rate, ad viewability–one of the key metrics in the online marketing world–suffers. A growing number of tech-savvy people choose not to see ads, and most of them are willing to pay for premium ad blockers to improve their online experience.

The number of ad blocking users is growing steadily. In 2016, ad blocking rates surged 30%, and the trend is gaining momentum. Interestingly, the majority of people using ad blockers are young adults with high income. Needless to say, they are the dream target audience for marketers, but with ad blockers enabled, these people are just out of reach.

So here’s the situation in a nutshell. Those who have enough money to make frequent purchases online prefer not to see display ads at all, while those who end up seeing ads are just not the best target.

Obviously, it is time for marketers to adapt to the new, ad-blocking, reality. Translating this into action means three things:

  • Get smarter about allocating marketing budgets.
  • Rethink the ad experience.
  • Focus on things that are not as intrusive as traditional online ads (read: pop-ups, banners, and autoplay ads.)

Below are smart strategies for marketers to rely on in the ad-blocking age:

Native Advertising

It is predicted that native ads will drive up to 74% of total ad revenue by 2021.

That’s a lot.

It is also expected that spending on native ads will reach $21 billion by 2018 in the US alone. The best part about native ads is that people don’t find them annoying, which is exactly what marketers in 2018 should aim for.

As experts from the Native Advertising Institute explain, the next few years will mark the biggest structural shift in the advertising industry since the emergence of TV ads. This will happen because of marketers moving 25% of their budgets from classic online ads to native ads and content marketing.  

Since native ads are designed to mimic the design and layout of a website they are shown on, users find them less intrusive compared to pop-ups and banner ads. At the same time, such ads are effective. According to statistics, native ads are viewed 53% more frequently than banner ads and result in an 18% improvement in purchase intent.

Native ads overall are a great option for marketers to rely on—especially if they are committed to advertising. They are a smart choice in terms of cost, efficiency, and user experience.

Value Exchange

Value exchange is another way to do marketing in the ad-blocking age. This opt-in format is nonintrusive and honest.

In value exchange marketing, both parties get what they want. Marketers get a chance to collect the data they need, while customers get instant value in the form of free digital content (ebook, tutorial, online course) or product sample.

Companies big or small can take advantage of value exchange marketing. HubSpot, the world’s most popular inbound marketing platform, has managed to build a community of brand advocates by giving free classes on marketing, sales, and copywriting in exchange for one’s email address.

Is value exchange ethical? Absolutely.

Unlike shady data collection or the browser tracking that some companies do in secret, value exchange marketing is absolutely transparent. Both parties get value and everyone understands what’s happening.

Influencer Marketing

In the last few years, influencer marketing has become one of the top marketing tools out there. These days, influencers are everywhere—YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, to name a few.

Studies show that nearly 70% of millennials trust recommendations from their peers. Moreover, as much as 60% of people admit they consider social media posts while shopping.

“Would you rather invest in the content people want to consume or the ad that they’re trying to block in the first place? People skip traditional ads because it’s a selling voice. On the other hand, they feel an intimate connection with their influencers and trust their recommendations. They’re looking for recommendations from them already!”

Vivien Garnès, Co-founder & CEO at Upfluence.com

The vast majority of marketers already use influencers as a part of their marketing strategy, and 39% of them plan to increase influencer marketing budgets this year.

The advantages of influencer marketing are numerous and diverse. First, it is less intrusive compared to display ads. Second, it feels natural and trustworthy to the users. Third, content created by influencers tends to stay on their accounts long-term, while display ads disappear as soon as a paid campaign is over. Most importantly, influencer marketing is immune to ad blocking technologies.

“Influencer marketing presents an opportunity to use word-of-mouth to communicate brand messages, in the trusted voice of the influencer. This native product placement not only by-passes ad blockers but feels more authentic, trustworthy and as if the consumer is accessing the information on their own terms. No wonder marketers are shifting their budgets from traditional media into this sector.”

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of Vamp

Employee Advocacy

Employee advocacy might not be a buzzword in the marketing world these days, but still, it is a tool company can rely on in ad-blocking age. If the term isn’t ringing a bell, employee advocacy is the promotion of a company and the products or services it produces by those who work for the company.

Employee advocacy is considered a powerful tool for building brand awareness. Just like thought leaders and bloggers, employees have their audience on social media, too. So why not make use of it?

Employee advocacy is more efficient than most people think.

According to one Cisco study, marketing content posted by employees generates 8X engagement compared to the same content published through brand handles.

Employee advocacy works because people are more likely to take action when a recommendation comes from a trusted source. Unlike advertising and paid influencer marketing, employee advocacy is an organic, natural extension of 1-on-1 digital communications. Employee advocacy makes an impact where advertising cannot as it combines the reach of social media engagement with the timeless truth of word-of-mouth. Messages delivered by a friend, colleague, or connection are naturally more trustworthy than a company post—sponsored or not.

Mostafa Razzak, CEO & Principal at JMRConnect

Gentle Email Marketing

When it comes to email marketing, marketers seem to be falling in two camps. The first one is shying away from this channel thinking it is not worth the money and effort it requires. The second, however, believe that email marketing is old but gold.

The truth is that if done right, email marketing can work wonders, especially in B2B marketing and in the ad-blocking age. In fact, email is considered the third most efficient source of information for a B2B audience.

Some people falsely believe that email marketing is mostly used by Baby Boomers but, in fact, it is the preferred communication channel for the majority of Millennials. A whopping 73% of millennials name email as their communication channel of choice.

As an increasing amount of people choose to block display ads, reaching potential or current customers via email seems like a smart decision (as long as emails are well-crafted, perfectly-targeted, and sent only to those people who agreed to receive them).

Look what our friend Amanda Basse from Alan David Custom says in this regard:

We market to people the way we would like to be marketed to. To avoid getting avoided, we are selective in the messaging we send our clients. We segment our email lists to be sure they aren’t receiving more emails than they’d like. We keep track of who bought which suit in order to best serve them ads that are relevant. When you treat marketing as courting prospects and nurture past clients with emails that provide useful content (like sales and suit care tips) you are building relationships and not just selling. No one wants to be sold to.

Branded Content

In the last few years, content marketing has proved itself an exceptionally smart investment. Now, as the number of ad blocking users grows, it appears to be of even more use.

The beauty of content marketing is this: content sells, but it does not make people feel like they’re being sold to. Which is why it works so well for nearly all niches.

Still not convinced?

Content marketing is cost-efficient, too. Branded content generates 300% more leads compared to outbound marketing and, at the same time, it costs 62% less.

“Now for marketing, we bank on inbound and content marketing for organic reach. It is all about aiding potential customers with their problems via content. We solve their problems, we get their trust, and it leads to building relationships with them and getting more sales. The content we make is blog posts, guides, social media posts, white papers, how-to videos, etc. That’s how we get their emails, now we have direct access to their inboxes, which is great for marketing in the age of ad blocking.”

Saud Ibrahim, Digital Marketing Manager at The Jacket Maker

Focus on Branding

You can’t block ads, but you can’t block brands. That’s why building a brand and improving brand awareness matters.

If you take some really strong brands such as Nike or Starbucks and ask them whether or not they care about ad blocking, they will most certainly say that they don’t. That’s because their brands are so strong, they don’t need display ads to make people remember their products.

“Brand yourself and your company and start conversations whenever you can. Those are two ways in which you should go. Do branding because it will get you on the top in the long run. People can copy what you do, but if you’re recognized as a brand, customers will come to you as a reliable source. And you can do branding with creating content, which is the best way. Start conversations because you can’t sell anything without conversation. Start it wherever and whenever you can.”

Nemanja Zivkovic, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder at CilimTech

Bypassing Ad Blockers or Trying to Adapt?

Display ads used to be a cornerstone of online marketing. Today, as the number of ad blocking users keeps growing, marketers are faced with a dilemma. They can either try to bypass ad blocking software and keep pushing ads to people who don’t want to see them, or they can accept the change and start looking for alternatives ways to do their job.

Given the advantages associated with ad blocking (improved battery life, faster web page load, and online privacy protection) and the fact that people have become immune to traditional ads, the second option seems like the smartest approach to follow.

Here at StopAd, we believe that the future of online marketing is bright but free from intrusive ads. It’s reassuring that so many marketers seem to agree.

As Jonas Sickler from Reputation Management has so nicely put it,

“Rather than viewing ad blocking as a barrier, I see it as a blessing. Pop-up ads and intrusive overlays have resulted in lazy marketing campaigns that do little to connect with their audience. Great advertising provides value to consumers. It offers people something worth their attention.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Oksana Tunikova is a content marketer focused on planning, creation, and distribution of compelling branded content. She is doing content marketing for StopAd –a high-growth ad blocking and privacy protection tool. Oksana's guest articles are published on Dwolla, HelloSign, and ThriveGlobal. She's been quoted as an expert in VentureBeat.

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