From Ad Blockers to Optimism: Is online becoming more mindful of consumers needs?

Anita Caras, Insights Director EMEA

Man with family and dog on laptop drinking coffee

I recently read that in a 3-year audit from the AOP, ad blocking in the UK had fallen by 1 percentage point this year - great news to me as I consider the use and rate of ad blocker adoption a litmus test to the health of the online industry. When a fifth of the UK population and over a third of 18-24’s are actively using ad blockers, we know that we need to review our approach to online marketing.  If we are indeed seeing green shoots of stability and of ad blocker decline then what have we learnt? What are we doing differently?  

It is common sense that consumers want a seamless online experience, however, we also know through our Content Moments Research that consumers seek places where they can be inspired, comforted, informed, entertained and feel connected with others and importantly, they do not appreciate disruptions in the process.  This is something that native advertising strives to deliver and actually the reason why we conducted an in-depth native study - to reveal the true value native brings to mix at both a conscious and subconscious level.

Woman in park on phone

We are familiar with the performance of native assets in terms of CTR’s; our own data shows a 8X increase in CTR’s for in-feed native vs traditional display benchmarks. However in our proprietary research, which surveyed over 6,000 consumers across the UK, France and Germany and analysed over 60 hours of online activity (creating over 1.5 million data points), we were able to ascertain that native also work on a subconscious level.  One of the most fascinating findings of the study was that having native on the page increased active user engagement by 63% - suggesting that if done correctly, having a brand present on a page (i.e. ads!) can actually increase the time spent with online content instead of turn people away.  

This robust piece of research enables us to look at native in a new light, moving beyond purely performance measures into the realms of brand building; we saw a 45% uplift in likelihood to recommend & 27% uplift in likelihood to purchase.  But it is also worth bearing in mind that native formats are not all created equal; results do vary by format (e.g. in feed vs. bottom of page) and by environment (premium vs non premium) - for more information, take a look at the summary of our Redefining Native Study here.

We at Verizon Media have put significant investment in researching and understanding consumer motivations behind native formats and online usage in general. From this, we’ve developed a number of native solutions that deliver for both the end-user and advertiser - whatever outcome they’re looking to achieve.

For example, if we know consumers are going online for some inspiration (ie. they want to try out new ideas and gain the confidence to try something new) then we can recommend high impact formats that grab attention in premium environments, such as native video or AR ads - both of which drive high awareness & high engagement. A great example of this is the AR game www.FindUnlimited.co.uk which we created with Vodafone to create buzz around the iPhone 11 launch.

Vodafone Find Unlimited campaign on mobile phone in front of Trafalgar Square

Verizon Media worked in partnership with Vodafone and Wavemaker to create  ‘Find Unlimited’ a unique augmented reality game giving you the chance to win over a thousand Apple prizes, including one of five brand new iPhone 11s.

To unlock the prizes, participants needed to find the AR ‘Vatoms’ dropped in six ‘high-footfall’ locations across Central London each day, using the ‘Find Unlimited’ map on their smartphone and interact with them via their smartphone cameras. Clues to the prize locations could be unlocked by sharing the competition on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Independently validated research by OnDevice showed that the campaign stimulated significant growth in spontaneous awareness for both Vodafone and iPhone.  Nearly 1/3rd of those aware of the competition went on to enter into it. Similarly 31% said they found out more about the new iPhone 11. Trust, innovation and pricing perceptions were also enhanced. Click here to see the AR experience in action.

Conversely, if we know that consumers are actively seeking information around a specific topic (we call this the 'Find' moment) we would recommend formats where large amounts of information can be gleaned from one asset. The beauty of our native tiles format for example is that you can combine images, text and video within one format.  

It is completely customisable and enables the end-user to fully explore the product with all the information at their fingertips. For example, you could both see how a car engine looks, but also analyse its specification, or view the car dashboard and understand what each button does prior to purchase; just take a look at the work we did with Philips air purifier where we combined video, 360 image and text to achieve an impressive 45.2% engagement rate . We believe there are multiple opportunities through native to align with our users intent and ultimately provide both great user experiences and business outcomes.

View of Philips ad on mobile phone

Ultimately the rise in ad blockers threw the gauntlet back to us and we need to be more mindful of giving people what they want if we want to continue to have a sustainable online marketplace. Brands need to offer a utility, a service, something of interest or value to a consumer - if not then of course people will block you out. It’s about understanding what consumers want and getting the value exchange right.  Hopefully the 1 percentage point decline in ad blockers is a growing trend and a sign that online marketers and publishers are starting to take heed.

Want to find out more about native advertising from Verizon Media and get certified to run your own native campaigns? Sign up to one of our Connect Native events or webinars here.