What Apple Ad Blocking Means for Digital Strategy

At their June Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple revealed that when iOS 9 is released, users will be able to block display advertising (i.e., banner ads) in Safari.

Like any marketing agency, we’ve been trying to quickly determine how this could affect our clients’ digital strategies. Here are a few thoughts.

Continue to include mobile advertising in media plans.

We can’t predict mobile ad-blocking adoption rates, but we do know via a PageFair and Adobe study that only 28 percent of U.S. desktop users currently block ads, even though banner suppression has been available on desktop for years. Also, iAds take place in-app, so they won’t be affected by this change.

Advertising must continue to evolve. 

DVRs, ad-blocking software and applications like PaperKarma that help consumers stop unwanted paper mail are waging war on traditional advertising. Smart advertising agencies will continue to place importance on native advertisements, content sponsorships, relevant partnerships, social media integration and innovative new tactical approaches, such as Geico’s unskippable YouTube pre-roll ads.

Will banner ads join the typewriter and Walkman as obsolete technology?

It’s doubtful. Why? Follow the money. Content producers make money today through advertising that pays them a few cents per impression. For websites that have monetized businesses around the audiences they drive to the content they create, they’ll need a new revenue stream. 

While we should expect more paywalls like many newspapers use today, the nightmare scenario for users is a model like cable/satellite TV, where ESPN pays the NFL billions of dollars for football, then charges Comcast, DirecTV and other providers to carry their channel. This cost is passed along to consumers via skyrocketing cable bills, while Netflix, Hulu Plus and Roku are used to defray costs and are beginning to force a new model.

It’s doubtful that the Internet will follow this model, particularly as television struggles with it, but tolerating interruptive banners and paying content producers directly for access to premium content both sound like better alternatives. 

Coach your teams. 

Ad blocking is a hot subject right now, much like banner blindness or fraud. Advertising agencies should anticipate client questions about the iOS 9 ad-blocking announcement and be prepared to talk about what it might mean for future advertising plans. Our approach is to maintain flexibility, so that we don’t overreact, but are prepared to evolve our digital strategies and media placements as the landscape continues to shift.