Posted: Tuesday 17th November 2015 in Paid Media, Thought Leadership.

Ad blocking software is increasingly being adopted by internet users in order to avoid being interrupted or followed around the web by adverts. But are ad blockers an inescapable nuisance to advertisers, or could they in fact be a key component in the continuing improvement of online advertising quality?

The problem with ad blockers

Blocking software will cost ad publishers up to $22bn (£14bn) in revenue this year alone, and it has been suggested that the increasing popularity of ad blockers ‘could prove catastrophic for the economic structure underlying the web’. The impact on retailers in particular can be huge, as ad blockers not only prevent display ads (image or banner ads seen on most big websites) but can also affect Facebook and Twitter ads. In fact, ‘Ad Block’ has a specific plugin just for Facebook ads. Considering the amount of revenue that can be gained from social ads alone, it is hugely important that the pool of potential customers that retailers are able to target with them is not forever decreasing. For ads that are paid for on an impression basis, the advertiser still pays for the ad to be served even if it is blocked, resulting in wasted marketing spend.

Currently ad blocking is mostly restricted to desktops, however the new iOS 9 will include support for ad blockers when it becomes available, which will block internet based ads and has the potential to block ads inside other apps. It’s highly unlikely that someone who has installed blocking software will then revert back to free browsing, so the focus is on ensuring those users who do not already have one do not decide they need one.

Combating ad blockers

A handful of companies have begun to create software that circumvents ad blockers and serves ads anyway, with the prerequisite that the ads have to be unobtrusive; no animations, no trackers, and no blocked content. This restriction, while inconvenient for advertisers, does mean that in the long run ads are likely to become better, less obtrusive, less invasive of users’ browser space and more tailored to the audiences they are targeting. Companies will be forced to advertise conscientiously and with care for the user. This can only be a good thing, meaning it may not to be too late to recapture those who already have an ad blocker installed.

The main ad blockers in the game – PageFair, AdBlock and Ghostery – are all pushing for ads to be better. They are creating new software and pushing ideas that encourage agencies to create quality ads. However, this begs the question of whether it is actually possible for the entire internet to be policed in order to ensure the quality of online ads.

For better ads tomorrow, block ads today?

The increase in users installing ad blockers suggests that people are still finding ads indiscreet and annoying. For the future of online advertising to be secured it is key that advertisers focus on creating smart, relevant and engaging ads. From the advertiser’s point of view, whether attempting to circumvent blocker software or avoid it being installed in the first place, everything points to better quality ads as the most effective way of retaining and regaining a broad audience.