The rise of ad blocking puts users back at the front

You’re not the only one who had enough of slow-loading websites and pop-up ads. Join the growing group of 7.3m consumers in the UK who are using ad-blocking technologies to tackle the issue.

While it is hard to assess the impact, the trend has one clear message to all the publishers, marketers and advertisers out there: It’s time to put user experience first (Digiday).

It shouldn’t come as a surprise: readers are fed up with pop-up and auto-playing video ads that interrupt readers’ online experiences. 

How advertisers are fighting back

At the same time, ad blocking has also made us contemplate the fundamental online advertising mechanism – publishers need revenues to deliver stories for free.

In fact, a study shows that only 4% of Britons would be ‘happy to pay to access content online rather than see advertising’. A paradox that advertisers and publishers have hard time solving: consumers want to have access to your content, without having to pay for it.

One of the common responses from publishers is, of course, installing anti-ad blocking.  

Anti-ad blocking companies like Sourcepoint claims that their technologies offer “choice and transparency” to consumers (see more on Brand Republic). However it also pushes for “advertising recovery and persistent messaging”.

Life saviour for publishers. More nightmares for consumers.

While users might be able to choose whether the content is worth paying or giving personal data for, the anti-ad blocking brings us back to the same UX issues again.

Those who opted for ad blocking have clearly done so because they were fed up with intrusive ads that not only interrupt online experiences but also consume phone battery and invade privacy.

So far, anti-ad blocking only puts everyone back in the starting line again.

Meanwhile, publishers like The Verge and GQ have taken user experience factors in careful consideration and have actually made minor tweaks to cut their page loading times by 80%. At the bottom line, publishing firms need to serve their readers first, to build the solid foundation for their business credibility and customer confidence, says Digiday.

By ignoring the essential UX issues, consumers would simply ditch your site and go elsewhere.

Where does content stand in the spectrum?

It may be difficult to find a common ground for both advertisers and consumers. But when anti-ad blocking is not simply the solution, we need to rethink how we approach advertising.

Probably it’s time to explore other options like high-quality content an alternative way to fight ad blocking. Or, to be more precise, native advertising.

Assuming that the primary reason why consumers use ad-blocking is due to the intrusive nature of ads, then there needs to be a major shift in how they are delivered. And non-intrusive native advertising that bridges interesting content and advertising can be the key to this long-standing problem.

‘Users have been bombarded with poor display ads for many years now and with real data that users are clicking less, most of the industry has reacted by making bigger and pushier ads – hardly what consumers and clever brands are after. Native now gives brands the opportunity to cut through the clutter and become the content.’ (via The Drum).

BuzzFeed is one of the publishers that top the list when it comes to native advertising. You won’t find any traditional form of advertising on their site. Instead, they come in the form of branded posts.

Having said that, promoted contents don’t necessarily brings happy consumers. In fact, biased content in favor of brands could lack in neutrality and objection. So how are publishers like Buzzfeed so successful in seamlessly embedded paid ads within the rest of site?

Elaborate, high-quality and timely native ads offer the content that is almost indistinguishable from the rest of editorial content. For BuzzFeed, the use of GIFs and listicles have made it much easier for consumers to read through. 

The above is another seamlessly integrated paid advertising by UPS in the form of infographics on Fast Company’s website.


On top of that, native ads also allow the following benefits:

  • non-intrusive user experience
  • highly targeted
  • information-based
  • useful and relevant
  • more emphasis on creativity over copy

Native advertising is also future-proof, in case of Google’s potential algorithm change that would downplay advertising-heavy pages on both mobile and desktop search.

But once again, effective native advertising needs superb content experience at the heart – transparent, engaging, user-friendly and clear-cut, delivering exactly what readers are looking for. Branded content made out of a blatant sales pitch, on the other hand, will only result in losing readers to competitors.

What do you think?

Appnova is a digital agency specialising in web design, UX, eCommerce, branding, content marketing and social media.

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Cover Image by vectorjuice on Freepik



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