Eight years ago a stroke of a pen sent all outdoor advertising in São Paulo to the junk heap. Over 34,000 billboards and signs of all kinds got the ax when Mayor Gilberto Kassab decided to save his 19 million citizens from “visual pollution” by signing the Clean City Act. Of course, the city’s M(ad) Men weren’t too pleased. Words like “fascist” got thrown around as they stewed over the impact. Also, small business owners had to eat the cost of tearing down their signs. But as the cityscape changed, residents began noticing buildings and architectural features that had been hidden for a long time. Oh, and the scrap collectors who can barely make a living in normal times? They got to enjoy a once-in-a lifetime bonanza as they went around recovering the carcasses.
As The Economist reports, what happened in São Paulo is now starting to happen everywhere online, as Internet users say “no thanks” to ads by using Adblock software…
Adblock is actually just one popular brand of a number of programs that will filter out online ads. Ad filtering has been around for years, but only recently has it started to enter the mainstream. This is happening for a few main reasons. First, ad filtering has become easier for the average user to install through browser add-ons. You can search for the one you want, read the ratings of other people who have used it, and install it, all without having to restart your computer, in a matter of minutes. And now Apple plans to bring the fight to mobile in a big way: it recently announced plans to allow ad blocking on iPhones and iPads.
Second, with all the publicity surrounding hacks, botnets and bad behavior online, Internet users — surely prodded along by employers who don’t want to be the next Sony — have become more vigilant about shoring up their cybersecurity. And a good cyber defense must include ad filtering: according to Cisco online ads are 182 times more likely to carry viruses and malware than p*rn sites.
The third reason is cultural. In a Netflixed, Uber-ized, Instagrammable world, we have all gotten more selective about what we want to consume and when. Unsolicited ads do not figure high on the list. This is especially true for people between the ages of 18 and 29, who are the biggest users of ad filtering software.
Not to throw it under the bus, but the final reason ad filtering is apparently taking off is…Youtube and its maddening pre-roll ads. You might be familiar with the experience: you click on the latest cat video only to be tortured first by an ad that seems to go on forever. As Zack Sinclair, CEO of FairBlocker told AdWeek, “Display ads are easy to ignore. On YouTube, you see exactly how much time is being wasted.”
While ad filtering will have the worst impact on news sites and publishers who rely on ad dollars, the story of its rise is instructive for anyone in marketing. It’s an example of what happens when you constantly throw sand in someone’s face to get their attention when you could have just invited them over for tea instead. This is why social media, e-mail gathering and other forms of content marketing are so effective. Whether you have 2 likes on your business’s Facebook Page or 2 million, you know that every single one of those people has given you their affirmation and consent. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to invest in social media as an overall part of your marketing strategy. Don’t wait until the scrap collectors come for you, start now!