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How ad avoidance will lead to the death of the mobile banner & the evolution of search

Ad avoidance is on the rise, prompting major changes in how brands should engage with mobile audiences in particular, with speakers at today's Ad:Tech London conference claiming advertisers will have to increase investment in native formats, as well as address their search strategies as a result. 

Apple recently issued its iOS9 update with ad blocking software integrated into it, and has led to an upsurge in ad blocking (part of the overall 'ad avoidance' trend), according to research released this week, although media-buyers are not necessarily frightened by the trend. 

Mobile ad network Buzz City has released the findings of a Q3 report investigating the most popular methods of avoiding advertising messaging among audiences, with switching TV channels during ad breaks the most popular method (see below). 

The top five ad avoidance methods are:

  • 30 per cent change channels on the TV or radio to minimise exposure to ads
  • 28 per cent pay to avoid ads by subscribing to Pay TV, or VoD services
  • 26 per cent use browser pop-up blockers when online 
  • 26 per cent use ad-blocking software online 
  • 24 per cent discard direct mail from advertisers

The Buzz City study, based on a poll of 3,000 consumers, also asserted that 22 per cent of mobile web users employ more than one ad-avoidance technique, with the issue also discussed by media-buyers today (13 October) on a panel during Ad:Tech London.

Stefan Bardega, ZenithOptimedia, chief digital officer, told attendees that ad blocking is on the rise, adding that people install such software for a number of reasons, including not wanting their family to know what they're searching for online. Of those 69 per cent don't want brands to know about their online activity, he added citing the Q2 GlobalWebIndex report

Underneath the bonnet of ad blocking behaviours 

However, Bardega and fellow panelist Greg Grimmer, Fetch, COO, are not completely frightened by such behaviours, with both of them noting that it will prompt the entire industry to raise its game, especially as audiences shift to mobile devices. 

Zenith's Bardega went on to further explain ad avoidance behaviours claiming that 47 per cent of those avoiding online advertising use private browsing sessions, while 40 per cent engage in cookie-clearing. 

Bardega went on to say the of adoption of anti-tracking software - the most aggressive of form of ad avoidance, in his opinion - sits at 15 per cent. 

Meanwhile, the study also found that 30 per cent of Europeans install ad blocking software - which is marginally higher than the rest of the world where that figure stands at 27 per cent (see graphic below).   

The death of the mobile banner
The major long-term impact of iOS9 will be the death of the mobile banner ad, according to Zenith's Bardega, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as such ad formats were only invented to monetise empty space on desktop browsers. 

However, as screen sizes get smaller banner ads will become increasingly less successful as they are deemed too invasive. The main beneficiaries will be those offering mobile native ad formats, as they produce better results. 

"Ad avoidance will always be an issue, the result of ad blockers will just be that ad dollars will flow to more effective channels," said Fetch's Grimmer. 

Grimmer went on to draw a comparison between concerns that the emergence of TVR  - where users can fast-forward commercial breaks on recorded TV shows - would lead to the death of TV ads, but instead the industry responded accordingly, and TV sponsorship received a boon.  

Bardega added: "It will accelerate the decline of the mobile banner format... The media budget will then flow into native ads on mobile.

"If you compare the stats on the two the average viewability rate of a mobile banner ad is 55 per cent, with in-app native ads it's 80 per cent."     

The shift to mobile and the implications to search 

Later asked about internet audiences' shift from desktop to mobile devices, Bardega also said this was leading to a rising number of voice-activated searches, and that this meant that brands would have to address their SEO, and paid-for search strategies, further citing its GlobalWebIndex findings. 

"In-browser search decline will be off-set by an increase in voice-activated search as consumers shift to mobile," he said. 

"Brands need to think about differences in how people construct voice-search queries compared to desktop and text-based search, then think about what keywords they will target for their campaigns." 

Meanwhile, German publisher Axel Springer today announced that it will ban readers who use ad blockers from accessing its Bild tabloid website.

Featured by The Drum

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