The use of ad-blockers is still increasing around the world, but the threats posed by these tools go well beyond the challenges that advertisers face when they're trying to deliver their latest campaigns to their audiences.

In this second episode of Inspiring Marketing, we look at the reasons why so many people have embraced ad-blockers, and why their continued use may spell the end of advertising as we know it.

Watch the full episode below:

As always, there are three distinct bits of content for this episode:

  1. The full video, which you can watch in the YouTube embed above, or find on YouTube by clicking here.
  2. The full set of accompanying slides, which you can read in the SlideShare embed below, or view and download them on the SlideShare site by clicking here.
  3. Text of the full video transcript, which you can read after the SlideShare embed below.

If you have any questions about this episode, or if you'd like to discuss how these topics will impact you and your business, feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, or click here to drop me an email.


In this episode, we’ll be exploring the hidden threats of ad-blocking – not just to publishers, but also to brands, and to the entire advertising industry.

Ad blocking has been gaining momentum all over the world in recent months – so much so, that ad-blocking could even spell the *end* of advertising as we know it.

That’s a fairly dramatic claim to start a video with, so let me give you some data to put that into perspective.

This is a statistic from GlobalWebIndex, which is a great resource for understanding how internet use is evolving all over the world, and they’re reporting that more than half of all internet users have used ad-blocking tools at some point in their lives.

As you can see in the next chart though, things do vary from country to country; at one end of the spectrum, we’ve got 68% of internet users in India using ad-blockers, but in Japan that number is just 28%.

The critical finding on this chart is that white bar in the middle, though, which shows the global average – and GlobalWebIndex here reporting that almost 60% of internet users around the world have use an ad-blocker at some point in time.

But it’s not just ad blockers that advertisers need to worry about; GlobalWebIndex also found that 70% of us also delete cookies on a regular basis, specifically to stop websites being able to track us and remember our behaviours across multiple visits.

But deleting cookies requires quite a bit of effort, so why are internet users so upset about advertising that they’d go to these lengths just to block ads?

Well, that’s something that I’ve been discussing with people all around the world over the past few months, and there are a few common themes that have come through in those conversations.

The first issue relates to focus; most of our web activity is purpose-driven – even if that purpose is just watching the latest kitten videos on BuzzFeed – but most internet advertising is specifically designed to interrupt and distract us from what we were trying to do when we chose to visit a web page in the first place.

People also dislike the way that adverts slow down page loading time. Of course, most of the time, the communication between a website and a third-party ad server only adds on a second or two to loading times, so that might sound a bit like a first-world problem.

However, research from Ericsson has shown that. when people suffer from delays or buffering in loading web content, they experience the same levels of stress that they experience when they’re watching a horror movie, or when they’re trying to solve a maths problem – so, it’s clear to see why they get so frustrated with ads slowing down their internet activities.

Our frustrations aren’t just psychological though; people also worry about the costs involved in loading ad content. That might sound a bit counter-intuitive, because advertising still funds the majority of free content on the web, but the problem is that – especially when we experience slow page loading – we’re reminded of the fact that ad content requires data, which most of us still have to pay for [at least on mobile].

This is particularly important in developing nations, where data is still relatively expensive, and where the amount that people spend to have access to mobile data still represents a relatively important percentage of their monthly outgoings.

People also voiced concerns about the security of their online activities, whether that relates to governments, corporations, or criminals tracking their behaviour, as well as the potential threats from viruses and malware. Many of the people we spoke to suggest that they believed ad-blockers might help to minimise the threats from this kind of 'snooping'.

However, by far the most common reason that people cite for blocking ads is the fact that most advertising is utterly dismal; it’s poor quality, it’s intrusive, it’s not targeted, and it has very little relevance to our lives.

So... when you look at those 5 points in combination, it’s clear to see why – when they’re given the choice – people choose to use ad-blocking tools.

The awkward reality is that online advertising is consistently interrupting – and corrupting – people’s internet experiences.

But the problems these interruptions create go much deeper than the challenges that advertisers face when trying to deliver individual ads to their audiences

The data from GlobalWebIndex shows that the use of ad blockers is still increasing around the world, and as their use increases, it gets harder and harder for publishers to make money from ad-supported websites.

And because of that – slowly but surely – these sites are being suffocated.

In fact, it’s almost inevitable that many of these sites won’t be able to survive if the use of ad blockers continues.

That’s clearly of great concern to content publishers, but it’s even more worrying for advertisers, because they rely on these ad-funded sites to deliver their marketing messages.

If advertisers don’t act soon, there’s a very real danger that the whole ad-funded model will completely collapse.

That means that almost all of these sites will disappear, and marketers simply won’t have the opportunity to deliver advertising on the internet any more.

This is a problem our industry needs to address as a matter of urgency.

But when it comes to the responsibility for that action, many marketers seem to be getting confused; the answer is not to force publishers to find ways around ad blockers.

People use ad blockers because most of the advertising our industry is producing is utter rubbish – and we need to take responsibility for that.

So, rather than making ad-blocking a problem for media owners, it’s up to advertisers to address people’s frustrations, and to deliver advertising that is actually deserving of people’s attention

And the only way we’re going to be able to do that is by completely rethinking our approach to marketing.

Of course, the critical question here is “how?”, but the good news is that the answer is incredibly simple; we need to focus on creating marketing that people care about – marketing that actively adds value to people’s lives.

But how do we do that?

Well, there are two ways we can think about adding value to people’s lives.

The first is to help people to solve their problems; to help them to address the things that keep them awake at night. This isn’t just about telling people that your product or service will fix their issues, though; it’s about actually helping people to understand how they can solve the underlying problems too.

So, for example, don’t just tell people that your detergent washes whiter than ever before; instead, show them how to remove stubborn stains, or how to store clothes properly to avoid unpleasant odours.

Use advertising to communicate audience-centric benefits, not product-centric attributes. The alternative approach is to fuel people’s passions; to help them understand how they can do more of what they love, or do it better.

This could involve something very practical, such as providing ‘how-to’ videos on the internet, but it could also translate into much larger-scale activities.

A great example of this is the participative sports events that Nike organises as part of its marketing, like the 10K runs and mass workout sessions that it hosts in cities all over the world.

Critically though, we need to change the way we think about the *value* that marketing delivers.

Most marketers still think of value in very transactional terms, but we don’t need to wait until we make a sale before we can add value to people’s lives.

In fact, the best marketing starts to add value from the very first interaction; if you like, it’s generous – it’s marketing that gives people something before it asks them for something in return

And – just as we saw in the previous episode of Inspiring Marketing – we can use every element of our marketing mix to deliver that value, too.

So, don’t just focus on how your products or services help solve people’s problems or help them indulge in their passions. Ask yourself how every element of your marketing mix – from you packaging, to your advertising, to your customer service; even your recruitment ads – can add value to your audiences through every interaction.

By doing that, our marketing is much more likely to be accepted – and perhaps even *welcomed* – by our audiences.

And that leads us to the key tip for this episode: it’s time for marketers to stop advertising at people, and start finding ways to add value to those people’s lives instead


If you’ve got any questions about this episode, or if you’d like to discuss any of the ideas that it’s inspired, please feel free to get in touch with me on social media – you’ll find me as ‘eskimon’ on both LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you’d like to download the slides from this show, simply click here, and if you enjoyed this show, you might want to subscribe to the Inspiring Marketing YouTube channel too, so that you get notifications every time I upload a new video.