The Ascent Of Ad Blockers Clears The Way For More Engaging Adtech

Consumers hate ads. Why? Ads are often irrelevant, boring and annoying. This ad-hate wouldn’t be a problem but for the fact that ads pay for mostly everything we watch, listen to, read and otherwise enjoy.

The Downward Trend of Ads

Big companies are now enabling, even encouraging, consumers to use ad-blocking technology. Apple recently announced that they’d be allowing the use of ad-block technology for Safari users on iOS. Apple users account for a disproportionately large amount of spending compared to their Android counterparts, which means this is a significant problem for advertisers.

Speaking of Android and its associated brands, Google Chrome and YouTube recently became targets of user ire after a September 5th update that disabled the functionality of certain ad blockers on YouTube in Chrome browsers. A fix for this issue has since become available, but the outrage following the incident indicates something we all know: People hate ads.

People use ad blockers at an astounding rate to enjoy ad-free media experiences. Advertisers are wasting money (and a lot of it) buying ads that never reach consumers. There are nearly 200 million active ad-block users worldwide, and many of those accounts belong to millennials, with 41 percent of 18-29-year-olds polled using an ad-blocking technology. All this use amounts to an estimated $22 billion lost in ads in 2015 alone.

The point is, users will block ads, especially if those ads are boring, intrusive or annoying. So what are brands’ options for reaching consumers without traditional advertising?

Create Something Shareable

If you plan to reach consumers through content, then it must be shareable. Traditional advertisers, take note: shareable does not mean getting in the face of users. “Shareable” is a dynamic term partially defined by its setting, meaning it changes depending on the demographic, type of marketing and platform on which it exists.

For example, the most shareable tweet looks much different than something considered “shareable” on LinkedIn. Learn to speak the language of your key demographics, find out where they congregate. If you want to reach the younger echelon of millennial users, for example, then Snapchat is a good choice, featuring a user base that’s made up of nearly 50 percent 18-24-year-olds.

If brands continue making annoying ads, consumers will continue finding ways to ignore those ads.

However, the issue with Snapchat is that “sharing” is not a built-in feature. The trends surrounding what people like to share are constantly changing — as trends, by definition, do. Right now GIFs are pretty popular, and have been for a while. There are plenty of apps in the realm of GIF sharing, but PopKey in particular plans to monetize with branding opportunities, which means traditional advertisers might consider allocating some of their budget away from obtrusive pop-up ads and toward content that users might actually “advertise” for them by sharing.

Even ads themselves — print ads no less! — can be shareable. Take the Moto X digital ad in the print version of Wired Magazine that appeared back in 2014. Even though the ad was on paper, it allowed users to customize the color of the Moto X thanks to some built in electronics and Plexiglas. See for yourself how awesome this ad was, and you can imagine why people wanted to share it.

Reach Relevant Consumers

If you’re struggling to create viral content that is highly shareable, or you insist on going the traditional paid advertising route, your best option is to be ultra relevant. Ultra-targeted ads have been possible for years, but many brands don’t take advantage of them. Consider that Waze has partners who advertise their businesses within the app, on routes which people are traveling. How much more targeted can an advertiser get than showing an on-the-way gas station to a traveler who’s making a long road trip? The answer — thanks to innovations in IoT — is more than you’d think.

Companies like Trueffect, Diageo, and EVRYTHNG are beginning to experiment with the relationship of web-connected products and people’s needs, which opens up a whole can of worms when it comes to anticipating a user’s desires, and ultimately distributing an ad that meets those desires.

Imagine getting a 3D-printed chocolate bar with your face on it.

Johnnie Walker, for example recently introduced “smart bottles” of their high-end Blue Label whisky, and a company like Diageo could theoretically feed ads to consumers based on the status of the bottle. Bottle still in the shop? How about a promotional offer? If the bottle is purchased, but unopened, some cocktail ideas could be highly relevant.

The question advertisers are seeking to answer with targeting is, “What do consumers want right now, and how can I give it to them right here?” However, sometimes a brand can introduce consumers to something they never knew they wanted or needed.

Brand With Something Awesome

Disney has for years been churning out awesome stuff (content, toys, costumes, theme parks, etc.) that we don’t “need.” And by “need” I mean the way you need eggs when you’re running low. Some might argue that they’re the king of branding, and they sure know how to brand with awesome things. They’ve come out with their own GIF app and iOS keyboard, and we all know how everyone loves GIFs. These type of goods are a way for customers to engage with brands, without requiring the brand to create an ad — and it’s not the traditional, boring tchotchke form of branding. How many branded water bottles can a person have?

Disney’s most recent branding push goes along with the upcoming “Star Wars: Force Awakens” movie, and it has been nothing short of impressive. Sales of the branded BB-8 app-controlled droid are through the roof, causing price gouging on third-party sites like eBay, and the unit is currently on backorder everywhere it’s available.

How many branded water bottles can a person have?

Disney also released other toys, including figurines, a Millennium Falcon drone and play lightsabers. Using branding on awesome stuff that they make and sell, Disney creates buzz around their products and drives a new stream of revenue, all the while subtly advertising. That’s innovative advertising if I’ve ever seen it!

But you don’t have to be Disney to innovate in your branding and advertising. Hershey’s is branding by creating buzz around their new 3D-printed chocolate. They’ve partnered with 3D systems to use 3D printers that can actually print 2D and 3D shapes on edible chocolate, a more difficult feat than one might imagine.

Hershey’s 3D-printed creations cover all the bases: they’re shareable, they’re targeted and they’re a means of branding. Imagine getting a 3D-printed chocolate bar with your face on it, you’re gonna share that delicious, personalized gem, and probably shout out Hershey’s too. Through its branding campaign, Hershey’s is redefining its brand as relevant in the age of tech. Any branding opportunity is one to tell a new brand story, so if you’re looking to shed your image as the “king of pop-up ads,” for example, branding some cool stuff is a good place to start.

If marketers can engage consumers and leverage technology to be relevant, shareable and ultimately awesome, then the ascent of ad blockers will be of no consequence to them. If brands continue making annoying ads, consumers will continue finding ways to ignore those ads, ad blockers or not.