Beat the ad blocker blues with creative content

As ad blockers continue their upward trajectory, what’s a marketer to do? Step one: Move beyond the ads these blockers target.

BY James Meyers
Founder, President and CEO, Imagination

The level of angst over ad blockers among marketers continues to grow, even though a shift in mindset and strategy would help address the very source of their frustration.

As an advertising guy in my misspent youth, I can understand their pain. You want people to notice your ads and, in today’s digital environment, click through and ultimately buy. You don’t want them to be headed off at the pass.

That is, of course, exactly what ad blockers do. And their use, according to Pagefair’s annual report on ad blocking, continues on a steep trajectory, reaching 408 million global users in March, up from 237 million in 2015. What’s more worrisome to the advertising community is that ad blockers aren’t merely keeping digital ads from popping up on consumers’ desktop screens. They’ve made such substantial inroads in the mobile market that one player is testing ad blocking at the network level.

The ad industry is screaming at the unfairness of it all, a logical reaction given the lost revenue. Pagefair’s study projected losses would hit an astronomical $20.3 billion this year, up from $5.8 billion last year.

Still, it’s not like the handwriting just now went up on the wall. We’ve been watching the impact of digitization on content for years and seeing a sea change in consumer behavior. They’ll engage when they want, where they want. If it’s not funny, quirky or emotional, then it had better be useful. Let’s face it. The hard sell has gone the way of Mad Men.

The logical fix is to circumvent ad blockers by getting creative with content, which is far more effective anyway than the traditional digital “advertising” these blockers are designed to block.

"To stand out, you have to look, sound and feel different from the rest. Better yet, you have to do that while providing valuable information."

James Meyers
Founder, President and CEO, Imagination

Creating value through video

Take videos, for example. Videos dominate internet traffic. As much as 79 percent of web content will be video content by 2018.

To stand out, you have to look, sound and feel different from the rest. Better yet, you have to do that while providing valuable information.

That’s how we helped Lowe’s create a campaign to win the hearts, minds and shopping preferences of professional contractors. The pro market is highly competitive and comes with different needs than the consumer DIY market. Home Depot and Granger are among those that want a piece of this action, and they’re smart enough to have content marketing strategies (including videos) of their own.

To carve a niche, the Lowes Pro Tip videos stay away from talking heads. They eschew more basic how-tos of contracting (think “fireplace installations in five easy steps”), since competitors were already playing in that space. Instead, the videos offer simple hacks for common nuisances that get in the way of doing the job.

Each video is visually driven. There are no voiceovers, or violins and cymbals providing background music (though one does play the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth for emphasis). But the sound effects are relevant and humorous: A cough in the wake of heavy compound dust. A voice grrr-ing in frustration. The rasping of a scrubbing sponge.

The message: We get you and know your pain points. When you need the tools to get the job done, we’re here. Not only have these Pro Tip videos driven tremendous traffic—through both organic postings and a highly successful paid media campaign—but Lowe’s overall sales to this audience have grown, at least partly because of such creative content.

And those ad blockers that are giving traditionalists fits? They’re not an issue because these aren’t ads. There is, in fact, a better way to “sell” without selling.

published: October 13, 2016

most popular

Three fading myths about digital content

For starters, forget the old "above the fold" digital design thinking—and abandon the idea of a magic word count.
read it

The great magazine marketing makeover

Here are 9 ways print magazines can use digital to foment FOMO.
read it

Design rules for a game-changing content hub

What's the design strategy behind adidas' gorgeous GamePlan A? Senior designer Anastasia Lyutikova answers our questions.
read it