Three ways digital marketers can use data to defeat ad blocking in 2016

While ad block software may appear to hinder the publishing efforts, digital marketers can collect and use customer data to avoid it.

While ad block software may appear to hinder the publishing efforts, digital marketers can collect and use customer data to avoid it.

According to a December report from comScoreCyber Monday turned out to be the busiest online sales day in U.S. history, up 21 percent, with mobile even bigger news in a 53 percent sales boost over last year. But it’s too soon for digital advertisers to celebrate. Even as online shoppers browse and click through holiday gift lists, we know the issue of ad blocking isn’t going away. That’s why it’s time to give some thought to how to defeat this in 2016.

I’m referring, of course, to the apps that block digital ads. Strong opinions are the norm on the topic of ad blocking. Some say it will end Internet advertising as we know it, while others argue it will drive more relevant and resonant advertising targeted more appropriately to consumers. Both camps may be right.

Apple triggered a firestorm with its new mobile operating system, iOS 9, giving users the ability to install content-blocking apps for mobile websites. More recently, Apple gave the nod to an app to block content in mobile native apps while, at the same time, announcing the release of their own news app, Apple News. The simultaneous release of these seemingly contradictory functions was quite a surprise.

Additionally, Adobe and the analytics company Pagefair have wrapped some numbers around the ad block phenomenon. Adblock, just one of the ad blocking apps, grew to 181 million global users this year, up from 21 million in 2010, the companies report.


The jury is out on how ad blockers will affect digital advertising over time. Regardless, it’s a wake-up call for marketers. Good marketing hasn’t changed. However, a focus on high-quality, relevant content to improve user experiences is going to be even more critical across the spectrum of paid, owned, and earned media.

Ad blocking in context

MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte’s vision for The Daily Me in the 1990s predicted a world in which each of us would become our own online gatekeeper, customizing news feeds to our interests. That world has now arrived. We now customize content and feeds from publishers. Advertisers serve up content based on previous views and purchase patterns.

the daily me

With that as a backdrop, it’s reassuring to remember that ad blocking is not new. The television remote has effectively served as a TV ad blocker, with its ability to mute content, and the DVR followed suit. Also, users have been downloading extensions to block content on desktop browsers for some time.

Yet the surge in ad blockers poses a threat; and none greater than to publishers and entertainment sites. Online publishers have been providing content at no cost to us for years, in a tacit exchange for advertising revenues based on digital ad impressions, but ad-blocking software threatens that compact.

Consumers in the market

For the brand marketer, ad blocking raises questions.

  • What will be the most effective marketing channels to use for various purposes?
  • What marketing mix of paid, owned, and earned media will engage the right consumers with the most relevant content?

The discovery of higher-value customer segments based on what they want and need will be key. In other words, we need to identify valuable in-the-market consumers who are most likely to be interested in brand advertising and marketing offers. Data helps you discover those customers, and understand what they want.

That said, here are three ways digital marketers can use data to their advantage and circumvent ad blockers.

1. Behavior-based marketing at enterprise scale

To identify higher-value customers and deliver relevant experiences, you need to collect and integrate data from all sources to create a view of such elements as search history, shopping history, and web behaviors. Think data collection and integration as the basic mantra of data-driven marketing. Understanding behavior-based actions supports engaging consumers in energizing digital experiences for both prospecting and retargeting campaigns.

2. Optimize, optimize, optimize!


With the growing use of ad blockers, optimizing content for every applicable channel, using A/B and multivariate testing has never been more essential. Testing needs to be done with highly refined customer segments, only possible when the data collected and integrated supports this granularity. Given the increasing importance of mobile, it is also critical to optimize native mobile apps by testing and swapping out content in real-time to take advantage of conversion opportunities as they happen in the moment.

3. Think long-term value

I wrote last month about development of the universal customer profile. Marketing technology now enables the marketer to stitch together data from online, off-site and offline sources. A holistic view of your customer – whether he or she is browsing Black Friday sales or in the market for a specific product – will help the marketing team understand relevance as a driver of long term-relationship, measured as lifetime value.

In conclusion

Good marketing still builds on a fundamental charter. Go where your customers go. Deliver relevant content. Test, analyze, and personalize for that “in the moment” impact. It’s easy to say, harder to do, but essential to truly engage with the empowered customers on their own terms.

Homepage and article image via Flickr.

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