Over the last 12 months, ad blocking grew by 41%. The 2015 global Ad Blocking Report from PageFair and Adobe unleashed this statistic, undoubtedly setting off alarm bells for advertisers in the process. However, this challenge for the industry could actually be an opportunity in disguise, even if it is a very good disguise.

Innovation often springs from adversity. It’s not the first time that advertisers have had to adapt and up their game by improving the user experience and it certainly won’t be the last. The changing landscape necessitates that advertisers focus on making content the best it’s ever been in order to stand out and be seen, not blocked!

Viewability and quality content

The industry relies on adverts reaching human eyeballs. Anything that prevents this is a direct threat. As different ad formats have arisen, grown, and developed, ad fraud and bots have grown alongside them. The increasingly complex ecosystem – married with a previous lack of coherent standardisation or viewability – has brought the question of whether humans are seeing ad content at all to the forefront. The rise of ad blocking adds yet another layer of complexity and an obstacle the industry needs to navigate.

The IAB found that 73% of the British public find ads interruptive. But people don’t intrinsically hate advertising. When done well, it’s really celebrated. Christmas adverts are anticipated as soon as the festive season hits. Brands such as Coca-Cola and John Lewis have succeeded in making their adverts national institutions – an integral part of our culture. Advertisers should take a leaf out of their book – establish a trusted brand profile and deliver quality content every time.

A value exchange

For advertising to be embraced by consumers, there must be a perceived value exchange, so trust can be established.  Consumers expect relevant content and advertisers expect content to be seen. As such native advertising will play an even more significant role in advertising. Brands will work harder to create quality, engaging content that easily integrates into a consumer’s reading habits. The rise in ad blocking will spur on even more innovation within the ad format, with the goal that consumers have no reason to switch on ad blocking.

Publishers have also made recent headway through transparency, asking readers to ‘whitelist’ their sites. Forbes found that a reminder to its readers that its content is free to read, but not to produce, led to an encouraging 44% of their readers turning off their ad blockers when asked. Publishers and advertisers, together, will offer a more appealing proposition than what ad blocking companies can, given there is such a demand for quality content.

A respect for data

If content is king, data is queen. Data lies at the heart of programmatic advertising’s growth, and is essential in the journey to reaching the right audience and overcoming ad blocking. When used to improve targeting, it can ensure content reaches the right audience, at the right time, in the right way. In short, data ensures content relevance.

The advertising industry must strike the important balance between using data for targeting and not overwhelming the consumer. The advertisers that will come out on top in the age of ad blocking will be those that maintain a respectful, impactful and sustainable approach.

The proliferation of ad blocking technology should be spurring advertisers and publishers to commit to a brand-safe environment. Once the ecosystem is safe, innovation around data targeting will grow, making it easier for brands to deliver advertisement types which serve the optimal experience for end users.

An industry alliance

A final thought on the rise of ad blocking. While it’s always important to pay attention to disruptions in the industry, rather than panic, advertisers should focus their efforts on better content strategies. Ad blocking gives the industry a rare chance to work together, aiming at more effective advertising which consumers actually want to see, and are more likely to take action from. Those that get on board will see a positive impact, and will stand out as authentic and engaging.