As ad blocking rises, affiliate marketers have an advantage

Ad blocking has been a digital marketing concern for years now, and blockers show no sign of slowing down. eMarketer recently found that in the US usage of ad blockers is expected to grow by double digits over this year and next year, with 86.6 million people expected to be using these applications to screen out unwanted digital advertisements by 2017. Marketers are adapting by engaging consumers in new environments, like mobile apps, but as Rakuten Marketing SVP and GM of display solutions, Adam Grow, told AdExchanger the responsibility continues to fall on ad tech companies, marketers, and publishers to ensure “online experiences are enhanced by marketing content, not slowed or interfered by it.” So what can be done to mitigate the desire for consumers to adopt solutions like ad blocking?

US ad blocking users and penetration, 2014-2017

Affiliate marketers are in an interesting position when it comes to ad blockers – particularly affiliate publishers. As ad blockers continue to have a strong installation base, many marketing experts are writing about the challenges and problems that ad blockers present to publishers, such as producing free content and the ability to make money. According to an article on Marketing Tech, there have been some efforts to prevent ad blockers from infringing on the publisher’s ability to display advertisements, like charging for a subscription to access content, preventing ad blockers, or installing anti-ad blocker software that circumvents the user’s attempts to reduce ads. Each of these has both pros and cons for the publishers that adopt them.

Luckily, publishers invested in affiliate marketing have an interesting workaround of their own at their disposal – native advertising. This solution enables publishers to seamlessly integrate advertisements within their content that, when done well, is non-intrusive, but also clearly states when content is sponsored, so publishers remain honest to readers. Advertisers have started to catch on as well – according to a report on Marketing Dive, advertisers in Western Europe have invested heavily in native advertising placements with a one-third increase in spending on native ads in 2015, and that number is expected to rise another 28.8% by the end of 2016. Additionally, native advertisements provide an 18% boost in purchase intent from the customer. The reason that native advertising is more effective, according to Marketing Dive, is that it provides the customer “control over the advertising experience.” At the same time, publishers have the advantage of knowing that their model of sharing un-walled content isn’t going to be thwarted by ad blockers. And, in the world of affiliate marketing, native advertising is already a natural factor in many publishing models.

Ad blockers are a challenge that publishers and advertisers alike will have to face for years to come, but affiliate marketers already have a solution embedded in the design of their marketing strategy with native advertising. The effort now, as always, should be invested in producing meaningful content that engages customers and allows them to control their marketing experience.

This post was first published in the Rakuten Marketing blog.

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