How the Rise of Ad Blocking will be the Death of Banner Ads


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse and was picked up by UBC's Continuing Studies Digital Blog. It has been repurposed for the ADfits Blog with additional context on how the ADfits' Marketplace will adapt to the rise of ad blocker usage.

When the first banner ad was born, advertisers could finally measure how many times an ad was viewed and clicked on.

Fast forward 22 years, and the Internet has drastically evolved: Google has dominated search; Social Media platforms emerged as a new medium of conversation with audiences; Mobile has eaten up a large share of screen time, and the Uber-ing of numerous industries has taken place.

During this time however, the model of banner ads has not evolved much. Sure, things are now programmatic, new formats have emerged, and native storytelling is the newest buzz. While layers of ad tech has made the process easier for media buyers and publishers, it has also opened up a new can of worms with issues like click-fraud, bot/spider traffic, slow page load times, view-ability, and the biggest challenge now emerging: Ad Blocking.

The impact of Ad Blocking

Adobe & PageFair estimate ad blocking cost publishers $22 Billion in 2015 and estimate this number to double in 2016. More recently, eConsultancy published 12 alarming ad blocking stats that reveal the size of the problem. This disturbing trend is a wake-up call to an industry that hasn't evolved much since 1994.

When the architect of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet,

"The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information."

While the fundamentals of this quote still exist today. The approach to banner ads has always been outward in pressure i.e. push out ads to audiences and get them to click. When the currency of transaction are impressions and clicks, it becomes the focal point of all initiatives and creates an imbalance i.e. the most important part of the equation is being ignored: Consumers. As a result, this model created approaches that caused user interruption and the overloading of ad space on websites people visit.

For this reason, Consumers have resorted to ad blocking. When advertisers are incessantly in your face asking you to "View me!" "Click me!" "Buy me!" it becomes a one-way conversation, and this approach is not conducive to the nature of the web i.e. "a collaborative place to communicate and share information." Banner ads have always operated on a one-way model. Social media did create two-way avenues for advertisers, but this did not replace nor evolve banner ads by much.

We live in the age of the Millennial and Empowered Consumer. People can price match whenever they want, research products and reviews before any purchase, and transact with anyone, on their terms. In order to reach and connect with these types of Consumers, the approach to digital advertising must change. Publishers, Ad Agencies, and Brands need to evolve and adapt to this new reality where Consumers simply want to know:

What's in it for me?

With these new dynamics at play, Internet advertising will go through a massive shift in the coming two years. The outward push of banner ads will convert to an inward pull, and this will be accomplished with emergence of new ad formats, a new advertising model, and a new currency of exchange between Publishers, Advertisers, and most importantly, Consumers.

This is why ADfits is focusing on the Consumer first. We believe that when People are empowered with choice and the freedom to choose which brands and sites can advertise to them, it becomes a powerful and deeply enriching experience for everyone involved. It's like opted-in advertising that is personalized and relevant. This is the higher level vision we're striving for, and it goes beyond cookie tracking, impressions, and clicks.

The industry has lived with and deemed acceptable a 0.05% average click-through-rate for far too long. It's been the status-quo, the way ads have always preformed. But when things get too comfortable, it opens up an opportunity for (and I hate using this buzzword): disruption. I think the entire business model of how we launch and monetize Publisher audiences will drastically change in the coming two years, and Ad blocking will be the long overdue catalyst for this change.

Ali Shah is the Founder & CEO of ADfits, a Gamification Marketplace where Publishers, Brands, and Empowered Consumers converge for their mutual benefit. Since beta-launching in February 2016, ADfits has on-boarded 46 publishers and bloggers in Canada, USA, and the UK. Ali is passionate about changing the way modern digital ads work and cutting through the noise of marketing. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter #JoinADfits.

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