Mobile ad blockers: what’s the solution?

Last September, Apple announced iOS9’s adblocker support. Since then, the advertising industry, app developers and content creators have gotten increasingly worried as the realisation sank in: while web users increasingly use mobile devices and adblocker downloads are through the roof, opportunities for advertising and revenue are getting slimmer — and some brainstorming is required.

More people than ever relying on mobile apps, yet the public’s patience for pop-up ads is at an all time low.

There have been many ad blocker options for both iOS and Android. While Apple offers a plethora of paid choices, with Crystal and Blockr being the most popular ad blocking apps, Android users can either use AdBlock Plus or AdBlock Browser for free. And on top of these, Safari and Chrome feature native pop-up blockers.

Mobile adblockers’ popularity in 2015 raises a few questions in the first place: where did advertising go wrong? Have mobile ads become such a nuisance to user experience that we can’t seem to stand a few adverts for a free service?

It all seems to come down to the industry’s inability to learn. Online advertising moved away from the invasive pop-ups years ago, yet they still seem to thrive on mobile, blocking the view of entire chunks from apps in-use, requiring constant attention to get rid of them like a stubborn mosquito next to your ear. Yes, they can be that annoying.

A necessary evil?

And yet, content providers need online ads to guarantee free user access to services and apps: they must cover costs, and as we can all agree, all good services merit payment — whether direct or not. Users putting up with advertising is the price to pay for the use of certain apps and content, and according to the IAB, 61% are happy with advertising in a game if it is available for free. And let’s not forget that adblockers don’t discern between invasive advertising and necessary popups, for example. Can we actually ensure the best user experience in an adblocker world?

How we advertise certainly makes all the difference. In 2016, it’s time to learn from our past mistakes and connect the dots: content marketing, influencer advertising and user immersion — these are all part of the answer. We’ve been talking about them, implementing them for years and yet we seem to have set them aside when it comes to mobile advertising. The key for every piece of successful advertising is Creativity (with a capital C), itself relying on the other three C’s of modern advertising (Context, Content and Cool-factor); it has proven its worth, and the time to implement it on mobile is long overdue.

Video games as a gateway to smart advertising

As BeefJack Agency is essentially a games company working with advertisers, we perceive games as a natural medium for advertising in an efficient and non-invasive way. As it turns out, the IAB revealed that 41% of people find it difficult to do anything else while gaming, as opposed to 25% watching television, for example. This is incredible user engagement and immersion, and playing our cards right with in-game mobile advertising could drastically turn the tables around. As in, if you’re thinking of animated eye-catching advertising banners, don’t. These are purposefully ignored by players, just like you would ignore them yourself (quite obvious, I know).

This would make anybody mad, let’s be honest.

However, integrating your advertising in the content of a game could have a strong impact. This could be a sponsored level in a game with your messaging, or a fully-functional advergame, but focusing on creativity and great design to tell the story of a brand in an integrated way could save advertising in 2016. Using gaming as a medium only makes it better for its reach and engagement — knowing that over 150 million people are mobile gamers — and it is also much cheaper than TV or mass outdoor advertising which don’t give you any opportunity for data capture. Working on a few game campaigns for brands such as Cadbury’s, the X-Factor and the National Lottery, we quickly realised that integrated advertising in games is the way forward. Given the rise of mobile adblockers, 2016 should prove us right.

Benjamin Howe is BeefJack’s Group Relations Director. He used to be an estate agent, but he’s alright now.