‘Powering through’ is not the answer to ad blockers

August 25, 2016

If you watched the Olympic volleyball players in Rio last week, you probably noticed something interesting about how they set each other up for those fierce overhead “kill shots.”

Rather than setting the ball to the tall guys up close to the net (an adequate strategy for most Sunday pick-up games at the beach) the elite players know balls spiked from too close to the net will easily be blocked by a wall of two or three equally tall guys on the other team.

Instead, they try to set the ball a few steps behind the net, preferably to one side or the other.

Why? Options.

From a few feet back, a player has a lot more moves to get the ball around the opposing blockers: Right slam. Left slam. Dink. The angles are even better off to the side, where there is usually only one tall guy in a position to block.

We think that same sort of flexibility is imperative for content creators that are going up against—and increasingly getting stuffed by—consumer software designed to block messages from advertisers.

The stakes are huge. By one estimate, ad blockers will cost publishers as much as $35 billion by 2020 if they do little more than they currently are to combat them.

And what are they doing? Some platforms have deployed technology that seeks to fool the blockers about what is and isn’t an ad. This has led to a seriocomical spy-versus-spy game where content creators seek to stay one step ahead of the technology (see this month’s MIT Technology Review article about Facebook’s recent efforts on this front).

On the other end of the spectrum, some digerati scolds have offered up preachy sermons to publishers and advertisers about making their ads more interesting so that consumers will want to watch them. Really? Try telling a store owner they could mitigate shoplifting if they would just make the check-out experience “more interesting.”

Let’s be real here. The solution is not an ever-escalating technology battle with your customers, nor is it producing ads that are too good to be ignored--no ads are that good.

What’s needed instead is a consumer-centric approach that gives readers options and explicitly informs them of the value of your content. Because if you give readers information to make choices, they will value your goods more.

In early tests, qbeats found that more than nine in 10 testers clicked on a flexible interface for unlocking content that displayed a dynamic price and gave them the option to unlock content by selecting pay-per view, viewing a sponsor message, or taking out a subscription. Some 97% said they would choose to view the ad to unlock content.

Running an ad blocker? Such an interface embraces some consumers’ desire for an ad-free experience. The message isn’t: “We see what you are doing—knock it off or go away!” It’s “As you can see, our content has value; here are three different ways you can access it.”

A customer-friendly strategy based on providing options—that’s much more likely to get publishers onto the podium.


- Ad blockers are a $35 billion threat to publishers and their sponsors

- Confrontational technology solutions are ineffective and send a terrible message to consumers

- Creating a value exchange with optionability delivers a more customer-friendly response to ad blockers

Michael Miller
August 25, 2016