With Ad Blockers, Beat ‘Em Or Join ‘Em

It isn’t personal, it’s just business.

Those words have echoed down through the decades since “The Godfather’s” Michael Corleone first uttered them, in slightly altered form. And they might be appropriate for the as-of-now rocky relationship between ad blockers and the Internet advertisers they curtail.

As MPD’s Karen Webster noted recently, ad blockers are likely to spark a fire that changes the way ads are delivered in the first place. One benefit may be a movement from pell-mell ad frenzies hurled at Internet users to more of a controlled, targeted activity. That would be a nice change of pace – but it also hints, as she wrote, of innovation in the wings.

What if ad blockers and the people who hate them actually became, for lack of a better word, frenemies? We’ll harken back to “The Godfather” (warning: not for the last time) and draw a few parallels, because in the online world, as in the mafia, as in politics, necessity can make for some strange bedfellows.

If data show – and it does — that consumers do not necessarily mind ads themselves, they just mind the constant bombardment, one immediate way to help the situation is to stop the bombardment cold, but that would not help the ad companies realize clicks and dollars. Nor would trying to build unblockable experiences necessarily prove to be an elastic or long-lived model, wherein advertisers link up with other tech companies to get around current technology.

Instead, when it comes to the Internet …make them an offer they can’t refuse.

There are a few ways partnerships between ad blocker companies and Internet advertising companies could play out and be mutually beneficial. Some of them include the possibility that marketers align themselves with the end interests of Internet users, in some cases offering financial rewards for continued patience to endure, or consider, a few ads, with ad blockers in place to weed out what they don’t want.

Here, Google AdSense gets approval, through an ad blocker whitelist, for example, to a user base that would be receptive. But then the advertiser and the ad blocker sweeten the pot when users go along for the ride. Perhaps there could be tiered incentives for enthusiastic ad clickers who actually make (validated) purchases.

Or could we see a world where alliances form, a la the Five Families of old (we’re almost done with allusions to “The Godfather”), but here it’s eCommerce heavy hitters, such as those in the Top 100 sites, segmented by industry, and by reach and by deep pockets?

In that case, there could be a quid pro quo arrangement, as these entities have the ability to dole out rewards in return for ad viewing, ranging from data packages (which would take care of any angst over watching a pre-roll video and so on) and maybe even engender repeat customers. The deep pockets of such an alliance would be deep enough to even help eliminate data charges for the mobile user – and plans could be worked out with the mobile device’s coverage partner in advance.

These are just slivers of what might be. Amid different permutations, two strategies are in the offing: that advertisers will work with the ad blockers, or the advertisers will have to join forces to confront the ad blockers. But either way the key will be to bring opportunity out of a situation where none seems at hand.

But it can be done, with some ingenuity and perhaps street smarts.

After all, no one thought building a city in the Nevada desert was a good idea – until Bugsy and his pals came along.


Latest Insights: 

The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.


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