If you were to ask marketers about the major threats to their marketing efforts, most would mention ad blocking. This is understandable; ad blockers have been widely adopted over the years and now prevent many marketers from engaging potential target audiences.

In fact, the number of UK adults using ad blocking software stands at 21%. Although this number has stabilised, it still represents a significant proportion of consumers that are off the grid to digital marketers.

Meeting expectations

The chief reason people use ad blockers is that they’re simply unhappy with the ads that pop up on their devices. For example, a middle-aged man may purchase a block building playing set online for his nephew’s birthday, but weeks following this, he is constantly served ads for other block building sets. As they have no relevance to him, he finds them a nuisance.

Another factor is security; more and more of us know to stay clear of unfamiliar and intrusive content online, especially when the most innocent looking ad can link a user to a rogue website that leaves their computer vulnerable to malware. Cyber security has never been quite so high profile –  WannaCry provided a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are. The sophistication of today’s cyber criminals makes it harder to identify what’s genuine. If users are bombarded with ads in an uncontrolled fashion, it’s little wonder they suspect them to be untrustworthy and either avoid them or use ad blockers to remove them.

I’d argue that cookies must also shoulder a lot of the blame for the rise of ad blockers. The consequences of decades of cookie-based advertising are finally catching up with us. Let’s be honest: most people tolerate, rather than love, advertising. At the very least, they rightly expect ads to be relevant to them, as opposed to being random, yet many clearly feel they’re not getting a personalised experience.

New approach

Some savvy marketers have realised this and are already taking action. Although cookie-based advertising has been their established approach for years, they’re recognising that it is not sustainable and effective in maximising ROI. In fact, we recently found that 50% of UK marketing managers believe marketers will abandon the cookie-based approach entirely by 2018. This means marketers will have to adopt other strategies that should prompt consumers to re-evaluate their view of ads in a more positive way.

A people-based approach can help in this, and our study shows that marketers will turn to people-based budgets as cookies wane. The approach relies on using first-party data from actual people, allowing marketers to deliver personalised customer experiences across devices. This provides useful insights such as their preferred retailers, the car they drive and purchase history, enabling marketers to get a 360 view of a consumer and serve ads that are relevant to them.

Less intrusive, more relevant ads have the potential to dissuade more people from turning on ad blockers.

Long-term solution

Today we tend to own more than one computer device, switching between our desktop, tablet and mobile to interact with content online. This provides marketers with an opportunity to get the most out of a people-based approach.

Linking all the devices of a user ensures that they’re represented as one person as opposed to three of four, as would be the case with a cookie-based approach. From this, sequencing ads and controlling their frequency is key to ensure users aren’t bombarded with the same ads.

Discarding cookies won’t immediately change the collective negative perception people have of digital ads. But it will make a difference and I’m optimistic we will see a real shift in attitudes towards digital marketing in the next few years.