Apple brought ad blockers to primetime; Here's why you shouldn't worry

If anyone is equipped to figure out what content consumers actually do want, it's PR professionals.

Adblock Plus is one of the ad-blocking apps recently empowered by Apple.
Adblock Plus is one of the ad-blocking apps recently empowered by Apple.

When Apple announced last week the not-so-surprising news that it will enable ad-blockers in the latest version of iOS, many advertisers lamented the beginning of the end for display ads. After all, this move by Apple marked a turning point in the battle between content-consumers bogged down by intrusive banner ads and the publishers that host them.

Ad-blockers have existed before, but this is the first time a major platform is supporting and encouraging them – a move that is likely no coincidence given Apple’s own move into the publishing space with the simultaneous launch of its News app.

For brands and agencies, this could have serious ramifications. Recently, display advertising has been the most effective tool to help us message those hard-to-reach audiences. If other major mobile platforms – Google, we’re looking at you – follow Apple’s lead, viewable ad inventory will dramatically shrink, and the microtargeting marketers have come to love could become significantly less effective.

While some may find this cause for concern, we actually view this as more of an opportunity than a threat.

Look, as marketers, we have to take some of the responsibility for this mess. We all say that "content is king," but we all know that bad content is the court jester. And banner ads have been a nuisance for quite some time. After all, if they were good, consumers wouldn’t want to block them in the first place.

We’d be crazy to say banner ads are enhancing user experience and content.  We all know it – even if none of us want to admit it. Most ads we see are gross, click-baity graphics that only serve one master – the click-thru rate. The biggest step we can take to fight back against a full assault on advertising is to make better ads.

With that in mind, here are a few places we are looking to avoid the ad-blocker purge of banner inventory:

Sponsored content
Look for partnerships with publishers that offer sponsored editorial content, especially with publishers notably taking inventory hits from ad-blockers.

Native advertising
Blockers won’t be able to stop native advertisements, a new kind of inventory offered by many publishers that more effectively blends in with organic content, but remains separate.

App placements
Partner with ad networks that offer large amounts of app inventory. Ad blockers could be devastating for mobile browsers, but won’t affect mobile apps.

Social targeting
Banners and display ads have been the strongest tools for microtargeting. With their potential disappearance, the targeting tools of social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter suddenly take center stage.

Above all, this is a charge and challenge to develop better content – content that resonates with and engages our customers and fans in a way that ads of the past could not. We can do it. If anyone in this space can develop better, more effective content, it’s PR people. Let’s have this be a wakeup call that consumers demand better content. Let’s get to work.

Murali is US digital strategy lead at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

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