With recent reports showing that content advertising will reach $50 billion by 2021, growing 32% over the next four years, and a rise in the popularity of ad blocking software- users are signaling that they want more control over their online experience.
In February of last year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau decided to ban Adblock Plus from attending its annual leadership summit but extended an invitation to Ghostery, a web browser extension and privacy tool. The interesting implications of this are at the heart of the debate surrounding ad blocking, which continues to this day. Both Adblock and Ghostery are businesses that offer browser extensions intended to protect user’s privacy online and block unwanted ads. Yet both have a business model that is funded by the advertising industry. It is the different ways in which their separate business models operate that make the distinction between them and fuels the debate surrounding ad blocking software.
That debate has led many to search for a solution and many industry experts are concluding that opt-in ads could be that solution and the best way to move forward with digital advertising in the future.
The ad block debate
As for the debate surrounding ad blocking, this is not a new issue for the digital marketing industry to address. For some time now the struggle for users’ desire for unhindered web browsing seems in many ways inherently at odds with advertisers’ need to reach out to them. This has led to the formation of the ad blocking industry.
Companies like Adblock Plus have become a significant source of antagonism for marketing industry online. Unlike non-profit ad blocking software like Privacy Badger, Adblock Plus is a business that operates on a model of “whitelisting” certain ads. These ads must meet certain specified criteria and ultimately be willing to share the revenue they receive from their whitelisted ads with Adblock.
Ghostery’s business model is set up differently and they make their money by collecting anonymous data about how certain users, who opt-in to its Ghostrank feature, are blocking ads. Ghostery then takes this information and sells it to advertising companies so that they can find better ways to reach out to consumers who are already trying to block them.
One way to look at this business model is it is productive in the sense that it is letting advertisers learn how to generate better quality ads that users will want to see. On the other hand, it is argued that this information is simply helping advertisers evade the defenses users are putting up specifically to keep them out of their online experience.
Whether for or against Ghostery’s business model it seems to operate on a more productive logic than competitor Adblock’s tactic of forcing advertisers to pay for their participation in whitelisting. It is also a step in the direction of providing control of the online experience to the people who deserve to have it, the users. Leading to the proposed solution to the debate, which is the opt-in ad and the research that supports this potential solution.
The opt-in ad solution
Also referred to as “value exchange ads,” opt-in ads offer users the option to watch ads with a reward or incentive for their participation. An example of an opt-in ad would be in a free app, such as a game app, that asks the user to view ads intermittently rather than paying. Research has showed that users who watched value exchange ads were 74% more likely to enjoy the experience. Further, a Nielsen Digital Brand Effect study showed that there was a dramatically increased awareness of the brand being advertised, recorded at a 34.4 percent increase which is 3.5x the Nielsen Digital Brand Mobile benchmark.
Another study from mobile ad firm MediaBrix, reported in this article by the American Marketing Association, showed that full page video ads that appeared in apps triggered twice as many “fight-or-flight” responses than opt-in ads that users had consented to viewing. “Fight-or-flight” responses of course referring to how users spent 22% of their time trying to close out of the ad.
Users who viewed opt-in ads not only were significantly less likely to flee the advertising experience like a hunted animal but were reported as enjoying the ad itself more than they would if they had not opted-in to receive the advertisement.
It is a lot of research to support a pretty common sense concept about marketing that has proven true for a long time. That is, that pushy, intrusive sales tactics are not a consistently profitable endeavor. Therefore, the opt-in ad will likely become the new form of advertising through digital media.