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Engineers are blocking your ads. Whatcha gonna do?

What to do about ad blocking

The rise of ad blocking software has been a big story in digital media this year.  Just how big an issue has become clearer now thanks to a study that Pagefair and Adobe published last week.

Building a brand is an important part of the job for engineering marketers, and banner ads are a useful way to increase brand awareness.  If banners are blocked, that’s one fewer arrow in the quiver for engineering marketers. 

2015 survey shows ad blocking is on the rise

Source: Pagefair / Adobe 2015 ad blocking report

Ad blocking also threatens engineering publishers who can’t charge you for impressions that they don’t show.  The Pagefair Adobe report estimated that publishers will lose over $21B to ad blocking this year.

What you need to know about ad blocking

Here is an example of how is displayed when visited with browser that has an ad blocker installed.


What is ad blocking?

Earlier versions of ad blocking software were complicated to install.  They relied on detecting code that the software thought was an ad, and then removing that from the page.  The newer versions act as simple add-ons to browsers, making them much easier to install and use.  Here is the only step I had to complete to get an ad blocker to work on Firefox.

Installing ad blocking is catching on in mainstream users too

Ad blocking software now seems to work more like the anti-spamming software in that the programs are maintained by communities of users who keep track of ad servers and add them to a list of servers to block.  This means that they can “white list” certain servers, and charge advertisers for that privilege.  This strikes me as an evil business model that is based on extortion.  Apparently, Google and Microsoft have paid the extortionists, at least in one case. 

Why are your engineers blocking ads?

In many cases, ads have become too intrusive.  They pop up, they cover text, they initiate video and audio without permission.  These types of advertising can be disruptive in a workplace if you don’t have your volume turned down. 

The second reason that people cite is that they are concerned about their privacy.  It creeps them out that ads follow them around the internet through retargeting programs.  However, they don’t seem nearly as concerned that the ad blocking software developers can also track their data, as I found out when I downloaded this ad blocker.

Ad blocking does not necessarily protect your privacy

Ad blockers and the industrial marketer

What does this mean for marketers? One common response is a heavier reliance on native advertising, webinars and other awareness techniques to reach engineers.  Many marketers are also finding that sponsored posts work provided that the stories are told in an informational rather than promotional way.

This is not a battle between advertisers and their audience.  It’s more a battle between ad blocking software developers versus large ad networks. 

While this is resolving, niche publishers such as industrial and engineering sites will calculate when the damage from ad blocking has become too much to manage.  When that happens, niche publishers will find ways to present ads that can’t be blocked, either by blocking the visitor’s access to the page (“We see that you are using ad blocking software.  Would you prefer to subscribe to get ad-free access?”), or by displaying ads through their publishing platform. 

The subscription / page blocking approach will limit the number of engineers that marketers can reach with their banners, which is a bad thing.  The second approach of pure native publishing would impact the ability of marketers to track the performance of their ads. 

Taking the native publishing idea to an extreme, Techdirt created branded microsites for Sun and Intel that were based on content.  At we have had a few inquiries from advertisers along this line and now plan to test at least one branded microsite in the fall.

In the final analysis, this rise in ad blocking will make our jobs as engineering marketers a little bit harder.  But in the ever-innovating world of digital marketing, change is nothing new.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below. 



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