What the rise of ad blockers means for SMEs

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The amount of online consumers using advertisement-blocking services has reached an all time high.

Two hundred million people use AdBlock on their computers, with a similarly high amount using it on their phones, according to a report by Pagefair.

While advertising filters are giving everyday consumers more power over what they see online, they are also costing websites – and, by extension, businesses – billions of dollars in ad revenue.

Read more: Ad targeting, blocking and what’s actually important

AdBlock is an extension available on all popular browsers that removes advertising on webpages everywhere on the internet.

The extension applies a filter over every webpage visited, blocking all connections from advertising domains.

Users have the option to whitelist certain domains, which means the extension will not apply on those sites.

But what can businesses do to engage consumers who use ad blocking services?

A common technique is to ask readers to disable AdBlock on arrival to a website, with some businesses going as far as forcing the user to disable it in order to see content.

Another method is to plead with users but these tactics can make you look desperate.

However, new ways of advertising are beginning to emerge across the web.

One example is native advertising, where the ad takes the form of an article or page that would normally be seen on the website.

Director of software practice at the University of Western Australia, Dr David Glance, spoke to SmartCompany about the rise of native advertising.

“Native ads, such as what’s littered through Apple’s News app and the Facebook app, have become a big thing, and we have to see a response to these ads soon,” Glance says.

Streaming giant Netflix ran a series of these in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, promoting its web series Narcos and Orange is the New Black.

The advertising for Narcos took the form of an article telling the story of cocaine as a business and appeared alongside standard articles in the publication.

It’s clear online advertising needs to change its tune to survive, reinforced by AdBlock’s “acceptable ads” manifesto.

This manifesto describes the qualities advertisements need to adhere by in order not to be blocked.

The guidelines say ads should not distort a page, should not have autoplay sound or video, and be appropriate for the site they are displayed on.

Glance says online advertising is changing rapidly, and both businesses and advertisers need to be prepared.

“Fundamentally there’s still the major problem of how people make money, they need to find alternative business ideas,” Glance says.

“These days, people are prepared to pay two dollars to get an add-free app.”


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Rod M
Rod M
5 years ago

I know when a contract can be enforced and cannot be enforced. In reference to ad-blockers, the end user has the determining right if they want ads or not, it is their system. Additionally, Eyeo who makes Ad Block Plus was in court again and won as expected . Excerpt “ The judge said it is perfectly legal for people to install ad-blockers in their browsers as publishers have no contracts with their readers that insist they have to look at the ads.” And this is 100% accurate – if a contract does not exist between the site and the user the no ads can be enforced or pushed without consent. Full article here: http://fortune.com/2016/03/30/

Additionally, The ‘implied contract’ theory that we’ve agreed to view ads in exchange for free content is void because we can’t review the terms first — as soon as we follow a link, our browsers load, execute, transfer, and track everything embedded by the publisher. Our data, battery life, time, and privacy are taken by a blank check with no recourse.” Every time you visit a website with an ad, it’s an implied contract, but since you cannot view all the terms it’s void and cannot be enforced. However under contract law, the only valid contracts are those signed in ink and both parties. Something you cannot do online, and these “bluff statements” like “by continuing to use this site you agree or our terms and conditions” are not legal either.

D. John Carlson
D. John Carlson
5 years ago



Software designed to block advertising from appearing on websites is becoming increasingly common. There was a 69% growth in adblocking between 2013 1nd 2014, and all indications are that this growth has continued. In some countries, in 2016 adblocking has grown by 134%. In some countries, 24% of the population are now using adblocking technology.

Businesses with business models dependent on website advertising revenue have been addressing this by way of technology. But of course, as fast as they develop technology to counter adblocking software, the faster the adblockers develop new software. It is apparent that both sides will continue this battle, and only time will see the outcome revealed.

For now, it would appear that adblocking is here to stay. At the same time, the trend towards online advertising continues with increasing speed. So – how can advertisers address these conflicting trends?

Some – including advertising agencies – might suggest that the answer lies in a return to traditional advertising involving outdoor, radio, television and press. However, while outdoor will continue to grow, and radio seems to be holding its own in terms of audiences, the audiences for television and the readership of press continue to decline – and may well decline faster in the next 2-3 years than over the last 2-3 years.

For advertising agencies, many of which lack the range and depth of expertise required, this may lead to real issues. Better and better creative executions will simply not cut it – if the advertising cannot be seen or heard at all.

For more competent marketers, however, adblocking will just mean a change of orientation and/or approach. It will lead to:

– An overdue orientation towards getting other aspects of the marketing mix right – including creating a product with service, ease of access, and a price that generates sales in addition to encouraging repeat business and referrals. The old story about word of mouth being the most important source of business needs to become true.

– An increase in the use of alternative strategies, including content marketing (or more broadly native marketing) and inbound marketing (or more broadly permission marketing).

Repeat business and referral represent the most important and underrated drivers of business. They are not at all dependent on communication and, in particular, advertising. Repeat business and referral are driven by a combination of product, price, service, and access.

Content marketing is one of the fastest growing areas of marketing because, if approached well, it adds to the customer experience, and is much more effective than advertising in building a brand. Native advertising including advertorial, video and sponsored content, not only get around adblocking but can also add to the customer experience and brand building process.

Inbound and permission marketing turns focus toward establishing long term relationships with a defined market instead of focusing all attention on selling the same product to more people – shifting the attention to selling more product to the same people.

Adblocking is a threat to advertising and advertising agencies without the required expertise, but it is not the end of the story. It means going back to the basics of marketing, and addressing new modes of communication.


1. Despite the trend towards online advertising, adblocking will be an increasing threat to online advertising.

2. Returning to core principles is the first step in addressing this technology.

3. Developing expertise in alternatives such as content marketing and permission marketing will also be essential.

5 years ago

Adblocking is having a significant impact across the board. We’ve seen drops so bad in click-though rates that we have stopped advertising with various sites that used to return significant traffic from banner adverts.

And as I type that, I do so in a browser that has adlocking running!

Content is king and always will be, so we have gone back to pushing on online reviews and articles which have long lasting traffic flow as well as having the benefit of being cheaper to do over the long term.

“Native ads” is just another term for ‘advertorial’ Nothing new there, been going on for years in magazines and TV.

‘Content marketing’ is a nice theory but for a large majority of SMEs, the time, and or ability, to generate meaningful content is not only costly but quite often ‘difficult’. It’s not a practice that can be adapted by all online businesses and I find it tiring to hear it being pushed as a blanket answer. Indeed badly executed (for whatever reason) ‘content marketing’ can have a more damaging effect for online credibility than nothing at all.

What we are seeing is a shift from the old model of a media geared towards serving up advertising to ‘viewers’ in return for revenue, to the ‘viewers’ determining what they want to see. It’s up to business to work out now how to reach their market in more meaningful ways, or return to more traditional methods.