Changing the Channel on Ad Avoidance

You rarely hear someone say, “man, I love ads.” That’s partly because liking ads is something that’s not socially acceptable to own up to, like enjoying the music of Nickelback or being a Chicago Bears fan. But it’s also because a lot of ads kind of suck, and people* will do everything in their power to avoid them.

It began after the golden age of marketing, when every family in the country gathered around the TV every night to watch the same program, that the glow of shiny advertisements began to dull. People realized ads were bad, ads kept them from content. Hearing the first few seconds of a well-known jingle sent fingers clicking to new stations. Eyes began to gloss over newspaper and magazine ads. DVR devices promised viewers they would never have to watch another ad again! The industry was aflutter with cries that TV advertising was dead. But it isn’t. It’s different, but not dead.

Now, the digital ad blocker has risen. According to PageFair and Adobe’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, 16 percent of the U.S. population blocked ads during Q2 2015. This led to an estimated $10.7 billion in lost advertising revenues in 2015. Obviously, this is a big deal.

While it remains to be seen how the industry will officially address ad blocking, let’s take a look at the reasons people block digital ads, and who I think should buck up and deal with it:

  • Reason #1: Load times/data usage. Who wants to hit their mobile data limit 10 days before the end of the month, just because the page had to load one too many ads with expandable, in-banner video, five social media integrations and a map of the closest retailers?
    • Who should solve this? Advertisers. Make less-intrusive, faster-loading ads that are still interesting. If your product and messaging are intriguing, and you have quality creative, there’s no need for gimmicks. Just make better ads, guys.
  • Reason #2: Clutter. Scrolling through a post that stacks ad after ad is just a poor user experience.
    • Who should solve this? Publishers. Monetizing your site is important. But if you’re providing really good content, either users should be willing to pay for it, or advertisers should be willing to pay for it. Sometimes that extra ad money isn’t worth losing a frustrated reader.
  • Reason #3: “There are ads everywhere else I go! I’m bombarded every day, in every medium! Just let me control what I can.” Ads really are everywhere. I get it.
    • Who should solve this? You. I feel your pain, but the only way you’re going to fully avoid any advertising is by pulling a Walden. If you want to consume media, you have to pay for it in some way. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

A lot will have to change to create a more pleasant web ecosystem for everyone. It’s important to consider the psychology behind why people avoid ads to ensure we’re creating the right solutions. Now, I’m going back to working on some ads that don’t suck.

*Here, and most other places, “people” are defined as anyone outside of the ad industry.