Opinion: Brands should celebrate ad blocking

Dave Ortega is creative director at McKee Wallwork + Company

Disruption was the king advertising strategy of yesteryear — taking audiences hostage and force-feeding them ads until they begged for mercy. Arising from the collective screams of the public for better and lighter online and video experiences were ad blockers, shifting power back to the people. It used to be — and to an extent still is — that such experiences were cheap or even free. Now we are at the dawn of the opt-in model, and users have the power to applaud great content with their wallets and social voices. For those who don’t know it, the advertising game has changed.

At the dawn of 2016, marketers find themselves with two future realities: 1) fight a never-ending war against ad blocking, in which your target audience becomes your enemy, or 2) heed the cries for better experiences and use your brands’ voices to build them.

There’s hope for marketers and businesses in scenario 2. People are starving for experiences and content devoid of pesky banner ads and pre-roll. As it turns out, ad blockers are the key to a thriving future for advertising. They require us to abandon ancient tactics and look to how advertising can become a welcomed participant in culture.

And some brands have already seized this opportunity. Red Bull created The Red Bulletin, which features curated and created videos and stories about the high-octane lifestyle. And while no one can buy an energy drink from the site or learn about product features, it’s quite easy to recognize what the brand stands for. What’s more, Red Bull avoided the ad blocker war by ridding the site of banners altogether.

Premium fashion brand Cole Haan is figuring out how to turn their growing Instagram following into actual revenue by utilizing Apple Pay and a brand-new app.

Microsoft recently invited nine science-fiction writers into their labs to inspire them to write about the future that will, in turn, inspire other budding minds to create it. Microsoft is publishing a book of their short stories.

For some brands, it will take a paradigm shift to stop attempts to outsmart audiences and instead begin thinking about how they can offer more of what people crave. But it’s those new challenges and boundaries that create an environment for innovation. What was once the limit is now the launching point for producing better, more creative approaches to engage with audiences.

Ad blockers may still be the source of hair loss and sleepless nights. However, soon they will be seen as the catalyst that helped brands think of more meaningful ways to connect with their audiences.

Image via Shutterstock