It’s hard to go anywhere online without seeing an ad. Whether it’s a promoted post as you’re scrolling through social media or a search engine banner ad, ads are everywhere.
For many businesses these ads, in all their forms, are the go-to method of reaching out to potential customers but there’s a problem. No matter how much money they invest in new ads, customers aren’t seeing any of them.
The reason? More and more customers are installing ad blocking software.
A few reasons your customers use ad blockers
There are a number of reasons why more and more customers — including yours — are installing ad blockers on their devices.
No one wants to be sold to
Whether they’re online or offline, your customers are constantly being bombarded with ads. This experience is both exhausting and overwhelming, especially when you consider that nobody wants to be sold to! Instead, your customers are looking for ways to establish lasting, emotional connections with brands who care about the values that resonate with them — something you can’t communicate with paid ads.
“Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody likes to buy.”
When your customers are constantly being shown ads for products they don’t want, it’s not surprising that they’d look for a way to make it stop.
People don’t trust advertisements or advertisers
With millions of businesses competing for the same ad space, there’s often no way to know where customers will end up seeing your ads online. Without absolute control over every place your ads show up, they could be placed in contexts that conflict with the value behind your brand. While it can sometimes lead to comical results, this mismatch in messaging and values negatively influences how your brand is perceived.
Sometimes these contexts are purposefully deceiving. This happens regularly on social media, where advertisements are often formatted to seem like user content. Take this Honda Canada example from my own Instagram feed. I don’t actually follow them, but after seeing a post like this I wondered when I had connected with them. You can imagine how frustrated I was when I realized that it was a sponsored post — also known as an ad.
Presenting ads in ways that could potentially break trust in your brand is a dangerous game. Not only does it risk your brand’s reputation, but it also eliminates opportunities for you to personally engage with your customers.
Ads are really annoying
Online ads are just plain annoying.
Have you ever accidentally clicked an innocent-looking link only to end up in a part of the internet you did not intend to be? As you can see in this example from Malwaretips, popups and autoplaying video ads are the worst members of the ad family, often taking over an entire screen and disrupting your customers’ entire browsing experience.
When obnoxious ads are used to communicate with customers, they feel like they are being yelled at, not like you are trying to tell them anything of value.
These advertising assaults aren’t limited to outdated websites, either. Services even throw ads at us in an effort to continually push products, even when we are already paying for their service. This is a guaranteed way to detract from your online experience and push your customers closer to the “exit window” button.
Ads can be just plain creepy
How many times have you searched for information about a product online only to start seeing advertisements for it pop up all over the place? If you think this is creepy, you’re not alone. 39% of Americans have indicated that targeted ads are their biggest dislike about browsing online.
Advertising cookies and mobile app permissions even allow brands to see every website you visit and inform advertising services what ads they should show you. This “always watching” mentality doesn’t sit well with customers and heightens the sense of distrust between them and your brand.
How popular are ad blockers?
Ad blockers are used on over 400 million smartphones and tablets around the globe.
These statistics explode when you remember that in early 2018, Google added an ad blocker to its Chrome internet browser. While this new feature (much anticipated by yours truly!) only filters out the most intrusive ads, it's still really bad news for advertisers when you consider that Chrome is used for nearly 60% of all internet activity.
As adoption of ad blockers continues to increases, you have to wonder how ineffective your advertising spend is becoming. With such intense competition for ad space still growing, is there anything you can do about it?
How to not lose sleep over ad blocking
If the realization that paid ads are a terrible way to connect to your customers is giving you a cold sweat - fear not! There’s a way to save your marketing budget while connecting with your customers in a way that makes them actually smile when they see you.
Stop spending money on ads altogether
This idea may seem radical to some of you, but with billions of dollars worth of ads being blocked each year, continuing to buy ads is a losing battle. This is especially true when you consider that general brand awareness doesn’t matter anymore. Can you remember the last 3 brands you saw ads for? I can’t - and that was supposedly brand awareness at work.
Experts are struggling to show that throwing your logo in front of customers does anything positive for your brand. 69% of people say they don’t trust ads, so instead of building up your brand, these online advertisements are actually doing the opposite of their intended use.
Advertisements are the shotgun approach to marketing: wide spread with no focus, in the hopes that something hits home.
Rather than hurling your precious marketing dollars into the advertising abyss, shift your goal from getting your brand in customers’ faces to building relevant interactions with them. Do what an advertisement will never be able to do: focus on personal connections with your customers that will resonate with them beyond just being a brand they buy from.
Create content that adds value
The easiest way to beat ads is by making your brand more valuable. Since your customers think ads are the complete opposite, value-add marketing is the perfect way to overcome the ad blocker obstacle.
Content adds value to your brand experience by showing off your expertise. This is something your customers will find extremely valuable as they look for the best ways to take advantage of the products you sell.
Take me, for example. I tend to think I have more of a green thumb than I actually do, so when my wife and I get a new succulent for our apartment it’s only a matter of time before I’m desperately searching for answers online about what I did wrong and how to save it.
Luckily, Mountain Crest Gardens are succulent gurus and use their in-depth knowledge to tell customers everything they need know. This information on how to care for their newly acquired succulents is valuable not only for their existing customers but for their potential customers as well. With this additional content, Mountain Crest Gardens establish themselves as the go-to source for succulent knowledge so that when customers are in the market to buy one, they are already top of mind.
Valuable content doesn’t have to be on your website, either. Altenew is a paper crafting company that posts daily video tutorials on how to make beautiful cards and other crafts using the supplies you can buy from their store.
These videos are available on their YouTube channel as well as all of their social channels, which means their customers never have to far to look for crafting how-to’s.
By showing their customers that they actually know how to make the most of the products they sell, Altenew meets their customers where they’re at, establishing an emotional connection and authority that resonates with their brand community. This added value is what will keep customers coming back to them not only for design ideas, but also for the supplies to make those ideas a reality.
Invite your customers into a conversation
Creating value-add content doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You can keep upping your marketing game by taking it one step further: interacting with customers.
One way to interact with them is by asking how they use your products and letting them tell you! littleBits makes kits to help kids (or amateurs like me) learn how to write code and program electronics.
Since their kits can be used to create a nearly infinite number of inventions, they ask customers (and their parents) to share what they’ve built and feature the inventions on the littleBits website. By letting customers engage with them, littleBits invites them to get to know who their brand is and what values they stand for, such as creativity and STEM learning.
“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
Once you expose this story-minded side of your business and let your customers connect with you, they become part of the bigger story your brand is trying to tell. This creates an emotionally connected conversation that is on the complete opposite end of the marketing spectrum from advertising.
Build real connections by building a community
Clearly ad blockers are here to stay, because advertisements are the absolutely worst.
Thankfully, you can put an end to spending resources on traditional ads with the hope that customers see them, trust them, and are moved to buy your products because of them. Instead, medicate your brand with the antidote to the advertising poison: building a community.
Give your customers value, and invite them to engage with your brand.
If you do, you’ll never dream of wasting another dollar on an ad again.