As the use of ad blockers continues to grow, ad buyers are losing visibility on the effectiveness of their marketing spend. What happens if their rise in popularity continues at the same rate and if they keep getting integrated into mainstream browsers, i.e. Safari ITP, Brave? In this article, we will explore the implications of ad blocker adoption for advertisers and discuss potential strategies for adapting to this trend and how it is leading to broken tracking.
How many people use Adblockers?
Ad blockers have been around for several years, but their rise in popularity in recent years is becoming a challenge for media buyers that rely on digital tracking. Hootsuite found that 38.8% of Americans have used ad blockers, which drastically limits marketer’s visibility into the effectiveness of their ad spend.
Adobe also claimed that 22 billion were lost in advertising revenue because of ad blockers, and we’re seeing real-word ramifications of that across all industries – from commerce to publishing. Germany’s Axel Springer, for example, banned readers who use ad blockers from its Bild tabloid website, and announced that all visitors that use them would have to either switch ad blockers off or pay 2.99 euros to browse the website ad-free. They lost a court case against Eyeo, in charge of the Adblocker Plus browser, but it’s a sign of how this is a challenge with big financial consequences.
What happens if this trend continues at the same rate and if they keep getting integrated into mainstream browsers, i.e. Safari ITP, Brave? What happens if marketers can’t trust the data of their campaigns and broken tracking becomes an even bigger challenge?
In this article, we will explore the implications of ad blocker adoption for advertisers and discuss potential strategies for adapting to it.
Background on ad blockers
Ad blockers are software programs designed to block ads from being displayed on web pages. They work by identifying and blocking certain types of ads, such as pop-ups, banners, and video ads. Ad blockers can be installed on desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and are available as browser extensions or standalone applications.
According to a recent survey, the use of ad blockers has grown by 30% in the past year, with an estimated 600 million devices now using ad blockers. We’re seeing ad block features being integrated into mainstream software browsers like Safari ITP and Brave, and increased privacy regulations signal to us that the growth rate of ad blockers will continue in the near future.
Ad blockers make sense for customers: faster load times, less annoying ads, a more secure browsing experience, and a feeling of privacy that is more relevant than ever. But what do they mean for marketers?
Implications of ad blockers for media buyers
If you’re buying media for a client or for your own brand and there is a large percentage of the traffic you’re sending that had an ad blocker, there are two things that will happen and that you need to be aware and prepared for:
First, your CPC (Cost-per-click) is going to look worse than it actually is.
Let’s say you’re driving 100 visits for $100, which is a $1 CPC. However, if you’re only tracking 40 of those visits, the CPC you’ll read will be more than two times the cost.
Secondly, the conversion events are not going to be tracked accurately either.
Ad blockers don’t just block ads on the page, they can also block known trackers like Google Analytics. Not all of them default for this, but there are plenty that do. This is a big challenge because it looks like your campaigns are performing worse than they actually are.
If we zoom out, the key difficulty that media buyers face because of ad blockers is that they have less – and also skewed – data. If you can’t trust some of the data, you can’t really trust any of the data, and that leads to making the wrong investment decisions. Following the example from before, if you think you’re driving traffic for double the price, you’ll invest a lot less in that marketing channel, and that could really decrease your growth.
The loss of visibility into the effectiveness of your marketing spend is an added factor to the broken digital tracking era media buyers live in. So, what can we do to prevent and circumvent the effect of ad blockers?
Strategies for adapting to the trend of ad blocker adoption
The first step to approach this problem is to diagnose how big of a problem it is for you specifically. We’ve seen industries where ad blocker adoption is so low that it’s not enough of an issue to really change your strategy, but other industries do require you to adapt and adjust.
Let’s say ad blocker adoption is high for your brand’s market. What are some options that you have?
Server Side Tracking:
This is the last hope of digital tracking enthusiasts. Instead of having all your tracking code on your website which makes it easy to block since it says things like Google Analytics in the code, server side tracking happens on your server instead. That way you wouldn’t send any information to Google Analytics directly, you’d send it to a subdomain like tracking[yourbrand’sname].com and then you’d have a Google Tag Manager container in that server which would then direct it to Google, Meta, Tik Tok, etc.
This can work in some scenarios, but it’s also a gray area. If someone says they don’t want to be tracked, well, they don’t want to be tracked. Going around them is, at the very least, immoral. Not only that, it’s probably illegal under GDPR and soon under ADPA (American Data Protection and Prevention Act).
There are two more ways media buyers can adjust to ad blockers that, not only are more ethical and moral, but they also can be more accurate and sustainable over the long-term:
Marketing Mix Modeling:
Mix Marketing Modeling (MMM) is a method that can be used to track conversions and measure ROI by combining data from different marketing channels, such as social media, email, and search. This approach doesn’t rely on digital tracking and can be useful in situations where tracking pixels and cookies are blocked by ad blockers.
MMM can provide more accurate and holistic insights into the performance of marketing campaigns, allowing advertisers to make more informed decisions about how to allocate their marketing budget.
Digital marketing is a relatively new thing and, for most of marketing history, media buyers were always in a position where they didn’t really have the ability to track what people saw or engaged with before they purchased. The real history of marketing is about how we make good inferences when we don’t have that perfect information.
That’s why Recast is well-positioned to help marketers in this new era where incrementality becomes the most important thing for media buyers to make better decisions without having the ability to track people.
Focus on Creative:
Another way to circumvent ad blockers is to make creatives that are so successful that there’s no question whether a campaign or a channel is working or not. If a new campaign goes live and it’s really good, you’ll see it: customers will be calling, the numbers will spike up…
You only need statistics if the campaign does okay, which is most campaigns. If you’re capable of doubling down on creative and regularly producing outsized results, it will be clear to you and to everyone that this is a winning campaign. Ernest Rutherford once said that “if your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment,” and it applies to marketing especially well.
In conclusion, the use of ad blockers is increasing and is leading to broken tracking and attribution for advertisers. Media buyers are losing visibility into the effectiveness of their marketing spend, and it is becoming difficult to measure ad campaign success.
However, there are strategies that can be implemented to adapt to this trend and mitigate its effects. You can start by auditing how big of a problem this is for your brand through a fake ad sense. If it’s a big challenge, server side tracking is an option, although one that probably won’t be sustainable in the future and comes with immoral questions. We recommend that you implement alternative measurement methods like Mix Marketing Modeling through Recast and that you simultaneously work on producing better creatives.