Making those pesky pop-ups friendlier

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on March 23, 2017


How can advertisers prevent consumers from using ad blockers?

They shimmy onto your screen and you flick them away. They pop up and you stab at them to make them disappear. Either you master the art of using your phone, undeterred, or you get an ad blocker. And that’s worrying advertisers.

Ad blocking tools are growing explosively, with global usage up 41 per cent. More disturbing is the higher usage among the young: Nearly two in three millennials report using this software.

Advertisers are doubling efforts to respect user behaviour on digital media. Some are increasingly rewarding visitors for watching their ads by giving them free games, notching up points, or providing extra content.

“People don’t hate advertisements. They hate it when ads interfere with their browsing experience,” says Tripti Lochan, CEO, SEA & India, VML, a digital agency. An estimated 61 per cent of Indian smartphone users are using ad blocking-enabled browsers, and 122 million users in India are using browsers with ad blockers in general.

“The main reason behind consumers using ad blocking technologies is the advertisement’s lack of relevance. Most times, ads tend to interfere with the consumers’ browsing experience, since it affects the load time and tends to distract,” she says.

Agnello Dias, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, TapRoot India, a Dentsu Aegis agency, says ad blocking manifests the shortcomings of the entire digital experience, and finding a solution to it requires a more nuanced approach.

“As an industry, we are creating increasingly inventive ads, but one has to consider how they override content that is relevant to the app or site where the ad appears. Agencies are now optimising ad content to enhance and add value to the consumers’ experience. If one follows best practices, one ends up gaining new and loyal consumers,” he says.

With website advertising becoming aggressive and targeting specific customers, auto-play videos and animated ads tend to start playing as soon as a page comes up on the screen. This delays loading, especially on mobile devices and tabs, so consumers prefer to block them out.

The onus is on advertisers to change consumers’ views on digital advertising. Many are making strides in that direction with more personalisation, native ads, and better techniques for measuring engagement.

Ad blocking has now become a chronic condition for marketers to deal with, states brand domain expert Harish Bijoor. Though ad blocking software could improve internet users’ experience, it threatens companies’ revenue. However, Bijoor emphasises: “It is the content, silly!”


Pointing out that most advertising is disguised as content, Bijoor says: “All mediums are originally for content, print or TV or mobile, and not advertising. Unlike print ads, digital ads are not static. They tend to blink, follow and irritate. Bijoor insists that repetitive advertising will put people off. “Companies are aware of it, but don’t want to address the issue yet. As of now, no real effort is being made to control ad blocking.”

Speaking about how brands are dealing with problems plaguing their advertising-based business models, Madhukar Kamath, Group CEO and Managing Director, DDB Mudra Group and Chairman, Interbrand, says, “All along, every segment of the audience relates to content. It has to be something that they connect with, like devotional music, pictures, animation movies or stop motion movies. It is time advertisers speak to them in their language, whether it is verbal, visual or audio. Then there would be fewer instances of ad blocking,” Kamath adds.

Making ads relevant

One of the main threats is mobile. As consumption shifts to smaller screens, advertisers fear more people will install blockers.

VML’s Lochan says targeting makes a difference. “Story-telling is one aspect of the ad, the quality of the visual content is another and both are equally important for success. What is also important is relevance, and this is where targeting enters the game. With all the data that is being collected online and the tools which have been created to interpret and use that data, we are now able to better target audiences, ensuring less ad blocking,” she adds.

However, TapRoot’s Dias says digital advertising will grow, but take more time. Noting that the “champions of digital tend to use TV” to advertise their wares, Dias asks, “What further proof is needed to understand how far away the digital medium continues to be for advertisers?” He says he will start to believe in the medium the day great digital brands such as Facebook and Google stop advertising on other mediums like print and TV.

Though companies are aware of ad blocking software, they have not yet figured out how to counter it.”

Most advertisers agree that relevance and skilful targeting can be a solution to ad blocking. Says Bijoor: “As the idiot box goes out from the drawing room and into the pocket, there are bound to be crawlers and pop-ups, which some might construe as intrusive, but others love. To ensure it works, advertisers have to be creative, and ensure their ads are not repetitive,” he adds. Watch this space.

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Published on March 23, 2017
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