Rather Than Fight Ad Blocking, Advertisers Must Attack the Root Causes

The spread of ad-blocking technology affects more than just advertisers. Lost revenue could threaten careers and signal the decline of entire industries. In December, the video game and entertainment news publisher IGN revealed that 40 percent of its audience was using ad-blocking software.

Improved creative is one place to start. But even stellar ads get blocked if they are delivered via traditional means to users who have already installed ad-blocking technology.

Assuming it's too late to rely solely on a better creative experience, we must also provide smarter distribution. This means exemplary brand content served across channels that are unaffected by ad blocking.

This prompts an exploration into native advertising, which has grown over the past several years as a way for brands to distribute branded content, at scale, without any hindrance from ad blockers. But "native" has become a catchall term used to describe everything from advertorials to recommendation engines to sponsored posts.

The idea of better brand content delivered across channels, without fear of ad blocking could be referred to as "pure native," and it requires brands to think beyond the basics of advertising.

This isn't about developing a dynamic display ad and using programmatic pipes to chase the audience. It's about producing sought-after, purely native content which requires five crucial elements:

  • Quality: Effective messaging depends on insight-driven content customized for your target audience.
  • Voice: The content must be produced in an authentic voice that a brand's audience trusts.
  • Context: To be truly effective, the content must be distributed in the edit well of relevant sites, in an organic format.
  • Process: This can't look like the kind of advertising that led to ad blocking, so it's important to look beyond the advertising industry. This content should be published by editors and content specialists that already generate the online content users seek out.
  • Performance: This is the piece that makes all the difference, because even ads that aren't blocked can fall flat. Brands should seek elevated brand awareness, engagement rates, higher time spent, and positive brand sentiment from these kinds of messages.

Adopting this content-rich strategy to address ad blocking demands new and more engaging creative, which will spur agencies to produce more groundbreaking work than ever.

The industry can no longer think about producing ads -- it's now about making compelling brand content.

Perhaps the biggest change here is the way the ad message is pushed to the consumer. Rather than relying on ad servers that promise scale and reach via traditional display placements, brands need to find alternative channels that still reach their target audience.

The ability to place a branded content message in the edit well of a site will help circumvent ad blocking software.

What we're talking about is facing ad blocking, rather than fighting it. This requires the ad industry to essentially admit its error and move on to fresh tactics.

Addressing ad blocking in this fashion has the potential to save careers and revitalize online advertising. Simply fighting it through lawyers or PSAs won't have the same result.

This post originally appeared on MediaPost.