Ad-blocking continues to present a challenge to both publishers and marketers.

UK trade body, AOP (Association for Online Publishers), estimates that the average publisher loses approximately £630,000 in annual revenue.

And with Google Chrome’s built-in ad-blocker functionality spreading globally in July, it’s important to understand the most effective ways of providing a better user experience, while keeping control of monetization.

But before we look at some of the strategies that can help overcome this issue, let’s analyze the current state of ad-blocking.

1. Ad-blocking is stabilizing, but it’s likely to continue growing in MEA.

Close to half of all online adults today use ad-blockers each month, with 28% using it every day.

Although ad-blocker users display a fairly broad array of demographic traits, they have a particularly high representation among 33 year-old, highly educated, full-time working males.

Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific are the regions where ad-blocking is most prevalent, with the former taking a slight lead over the latter in our latest wave of research.

More than half of the internet population in MEA uses ad-blockers, up from 47% in Q2 2017.

This uptick is likely a result of the UAE, where ad-blocking adoption has increased by 30% in the same time period, to 54% in Q4 2018. However, two APAC markets – Indonesia (62%) and Malaysia (56%) – remain at the top across our 45 tracked markets.

The fact that data infrastructures in some of the fast-growth markets in these regions are less developed means that ads can compromise page-load time, as well as use precious data allowance.

What’s more, internet users’ preference for mobile-first browsing here means ads can cause frustration as they take up a higher proportion of screen space and have been shown to be more invasive in the online experience.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that across all regions but APAC, ad-blocking is still more prevalent on PCs and laptops than on mobile devices.

We’re likely to see MEA following in APAC’s footsteps in the near future though, as ad-blocking on mobile here lags only two percentage points behind desktop.

Spread of ad-blocking

2. Relevant and personalized ads are effective.

The abundance of ads on the internet, along with their irrelevant and intrusive nature, are among the most prominent reasons to block ads across all major demographics, especially older age groups.

Despite this, 31% of ad-blockers find out about new brands via online ads.

This makes it the fourth most effective source of brand discovery after search engines, TV ads and word-of-mouth recommendations.

This figure is only slightly lower than the average internet users and indicates that ads may still circumvent prevention measures, whether through multi-device usage or selective use of ad-blocking tools.

However, it also signals that targeting the right people, with the right ads, on the right channels is key.  

Contextually relevant and unobtrusive ads can appeal to ad-blocker users.

Ad relevancy is key to engaging ad-blockers

A mass market approach, whereby ads are meant to appeal to all consumers, contributes to inauthentic and irrelevant advertising and should remain a thing of the past.

Instead, marketers should utilize the opportunities digital technology offers for personalizing the content in ways that will appeal to a specific audience.  
The true effectiveness of this approach can’t be ignored since it has the greatest traction in Indonesia – a market where ad-blocking is at its peak. 28% of online adults here say they discover brands and products via personalized purchase recommendations on websites.

Personalization works particularly well with younger demographics, as they appear least resistant to the prospect of personalized advertising, which is reflected in their brand discovery preferences.

16-34 year-old ad-blockers hover around the 20%-mark for brand discovery through personalized purchase recommendations, putting it at about the same level as an update on a brand’s social network page.

3. Influencer marketing works, when done right.

Influencer marketing can be a great tactic when used correctly. It gives brands the opportunity to reach consumers in different, exciting and new ways that go beyond traditional advertising. Most importantly, it bypasses the underlying frustration with ads.

But because it’s still not sufficiently regulated, it has also brought about fraudulent behavior that has put its reputation at risk, undermining consumer trust. If approached responsibly though, via the relevant use of influencers, it can yield rewards for the right companies.

Although influencer marketing can be difficult to identify as a source of brand discovery due to its non-interruptive nature, 17% of ad-blockers say they typically find out about new brands via celebrity endorsements, jumping to 21% among the 16-24s.

What’s more, ad-blockers show an above-average tendency to be influenced by the opinions of others.

6 in 10 say they always like to seek an expert opinion before purchasing, and almost 4 in 10 are easily swayed by other people’s opinion.

Brand discovery through influencer marketing

Influencers aren’t necessarily celebrities, though. Today’s connected digital space allows virtually anyone to become an influencer and this is reflected in our data.

Posts or reviews from expert bloggers (18%) are equally effective as a source of brand discovery as celebrity endorsements, and are even more influential among older age groups.

Influencer marketing can optimize campaigns by building trust and expanding a brand’s reach, but there is more to its success than mass following.

In order for brands to maximize their potential, influencer marketing needs to be transparent and to resonate with the interests of the target audience.

Brands should be cautious when it comes to fraudulent influencers, who buy followers or use bots to artificially increase engagement, since association with such could be detrimental to a brand-consumer relationship.

Companies like Unilever and Kelloggs have already publicly refused to be associated with fraudulent digital influencers by prioritizing working with social media platforms that take action to stamp out fraud and increase transparency.

4. Entertainment is key.

As the distinction between entertainment and marketing becomes more blurred, brands are presented with an opportunity to engage consumers in unique experiences.

Augmented reality (AR) advertising, for example, is expected to reach $2.6 billion in 2022. The primary driving force behind this growth is Snapchat, which announced that it is launching an Ad Kit for developers. The platform will be a self-service app for brands interested in AR ads and will provide the infrastructure for expanded reach through integration with over 200 apps.

Facebook also made an announcement last year that it is testing AR ads in their News Feed. The ads include a “Tap to try it on” option that triggers immersive capabilities and allows consumers to make an online purchase with confidence as part of the experience.

Bobbi Brown Cosmetics was among the first to experiment with AR features for its Luxe Matte Lip Color ad. It reported a three times higher click-through rate and twice the number of website purchases in comparison to a regular video ad.

Branded content is another effective route that brands can take to promote products in an engaging and less intrusive way that would appeal to ad-blockers.

6 in 10 ad-blockers can be characterized as content networkers¹ on social media and almost a third of them have watched a video made by a brand.

With its immersive abilities and placement in an ad-resistant online environment, social video is increasingly penetrating the worlds of sports, commerce and marketing.

It gives brands the opportunity to portray themselves in different ways while engaging viewers more profoundly, which has made it an essential part of marketing strategies around the world.

It’s clear that users are increasingly looking for meaning behind the content they consume and the value creation behind branded content is what brings ad-blockers onto the brands’ side.

Ad-blockers love branded content

Thinking beyond consumer clicks is crucial as ad-blocking removes one touchpoint between the brand and consumer, but offers an opportunity to consolidate on others.

Whether it’s providing relevancy through personalization, investing in content, or utilizing influencers, brands can still reach audiences by cutting through the noise and making themselves a valuable source of entertainment.

Ad blocking infographic

¹Content networkers are people who say any of the following:

• They use social media to find funny entertaining content
• They use social media to watch/follow sports events
• They follow vloggers on social media

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