I’ve just opened a YouTube link to watch a seven-second video clip. But before I can enjoy the ensuing moment of feline-related humour, I’m hit with 30 seconds of gangrene, lung cancer and every other visually disturbing image that might prevent me from smoking. I don’t even smoke.
To the rescue, ad blockers! Those nifty little browser extensions that prevent YouTube pre-roll and intrusive banner ads from ever appearing again.
The rise of ad blockers is of no surprise. Just like those handing out pamphlets on a street corner, we avoid advertisements in any way possible. Our TV is recorded, fast forwarding through the ads, we use ad blockers on YouTube and we subscribe to services such as Netflix to avoid ads completely.
Regardless of their impact on the media industry, it’s the behaviour of ad blockers, people like myself, that is perhaps the most interesting.
In the past it was almost impossible to escape the wrath of marketers and their insistent messaging. TV dominated the media market; unless you avoided out-of-home advertising by living under a rock, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do.
Despite the improvements in targeting offered by digital marketing, in 2016 we find ourselves with an audience far better at evading ads than before. This is especially true of millennials, where up to 35% of Americans between the age of 18 and 24 now use some form of ad blocker.
The response by advertisers, the media and publishers typically takes one of two paths:
- Publishers begin preventing users from visiting their site entirely if an ad blocker is installed. Highly reliant on ad revenue, websites such as Forbes.com will deny access to anyone who has an ad blocker installed.
- For advertisers and media, it’s much more of the same. Margins of error on impression data are increased, while we continue to push the same irrelevant ads to a disengaged audience.
Perhaps one of the greatest indicators in media relevancy is the use of platform evolution. TV moved to Foxtel, to YouTube and now Netflix. Each evolution was an attempt to increase exposure to more relevant information. We’ve seen the same adaption occur more rapidly within the social media space, with Snapchat now leading the way.“Where many advertisers fall into trouble is by chasing after users who so actively avoid them.”
What is often not mentioned in each leap is the migration away from advertisements. Foxtel was initially promised as ad-free, YouTube was the same, and Netflix is now ad free!
While it’s easy to assume that no one likes ads, the last decade of Super Bowl commercials prove that in the right context ads can be welcomed. Where many advertisers fall into trouble is by chasing after users who so actively avoid them.
Someone who continues to avoid ad-ridden platforms, installs various blocking services and subscribes to ad-free content is obviously unhappy with your presence.
The problem is relevance. Millennials don’t have the patience to wait through your smoking ad, probably because they don’t smoke. Yet, advertisers continue to push the same broad message across multiple platforms, hoping someone will listen, unaware of the damage they’re doing to both themselves and the digital landscape.
If you proudly promote your 3% pre-roll click-through rate, remember you annoyed the other 97%.