The rise of ad blockers has become a serious issue for display advertising and online publishing over the last few years. The exact number of people using ad blockers is difficult to know. There are all kinds of figures going around but they all basically say the same thing: a lot of people are using them and it’s something that needs to addressed.

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to this situation either. And the worst part is many advertisers and publishers still don’t realise they are the problem – not the people using ad blockers.

Why are so many people using ad blockers?

If you can’t understand why so many people feel the need to use ad blockers, then there’s something wrong. As advertisers, we – more than anyone else – need to face facts and realise the issue has more to do with us than ad blockers and the people using them.

A lot of us are aware of this, but too many are clearly still oblivious, and we know this because we still see so many ads that are the following:

  • Intrusive
  • Irrelevant
  • Killing page loading times
  • Getting in the way of content
  • Ruining mobile scrolling
  • Difficult to close

Here’s the thing though: none of those issues have anything to do with the ads themselves. It’s the implementation of them that is the problem and this is why people use ad blockers. Even the question of relevance (which might sound like an ad problem at first) comes down poor targeting choices – implementation once again.

So it’s not using ads that’s the problem; it’s how you use them that matters.

We have a lot of making up to do

After years of bombarding people with spam, awful ads and crappy user experiences the reality is we’ve got a lot of making up to do. Understanding the problem is only the start of solving it – and most advertisers/publishers are too stubborn to get that concept through their heads.

When Google comes up with AMP as a solution to solving the slow mobile web problem, you know we’ve let things get too far out of hand. Sadly, AMP isn’t the answer either. It’s nothing more than an opportunistic move by Google to get its hands on your content and lock people into its platform.

To stop people using ad blockers we need earn back their trust and prove to them that ads can be implemented in a non-intrusive way. Yes, it will take time but it will also fix the cause of the problem instead of coming up with new technologies we don’t even need (AMP).

Publishers need to get their act together

We don’t mean to pass the blame on this one (advertisers need to sort themselves out too) online publishers really need to get their acts together. Their answers to the ad blocker problem so far basically include blaming their readers, forcing them to disable ad blockers and threatening them with having to pay for content if they don’t want ads.

So they expect users to disable their ad blockers, reload the page and then have to put up with slow loading times, jumpy scrolling and full-screen ads that pop up while their half-way through the first paragraph.

Or how about those ridiculous landing page ads Forbes slaps between users and the page they’ve clicked to view. GTFO.

The funniest part is these publishers seem to think their content is actually worth reading, worth enduring a crappy users experience for and actually worth paying for. Good luck with that.

So what’s the answer to our ad blocker problem?

As we say, there’s no quick fix to this, but the sooner advertisers and publishers get over themselves and admit they need to improve, the faster we can all move on from this. We need to stop blaming people for using ad blockers and remove the need for them to use them.

Stop producing crappy content

This one goes to about 99% of publishers out there. Sorry guys, but your content sucks, so stop complaining about having to produce it for “free”. Try making stuff that people would actually be willing to pay for and then, maybe, you can expect some kind of return (whether via ads or subscription).

You’ll also find people actually stay on your pages for longer, see more of your ads and might not even mind waiting a few extra seconds for it to load. Who knows, you could even earn yourself a reputation for publishing great content and people might start interacting with your ads.

Stop killing user experience with ads

If you’re not capable of producing great content, that’s fine – most publishers struggle with this. But here’s the thing: if you’re going to publish weak content and insist on placing ads, don’t make those them intrusive on the user experience.

Why should someone fall for that click-bait title of yours and wait five minutes for the page to load – only to find out your content doesn’t live up to the hype? This is precisely why users are turning to ad blockers in high numbers.

Stop forcing users to disable ad blockers

This is becoming the trend for publishers who are sick of people using ad blockers. They genuinely seem to believe people are stealing from them in some kind of way for trying to read an article without the ad abuse.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a hostile act that suggests people using ad blockers are the ones in the wrong; they’re not. But, more importantly, it completely ignores the root of the problem and does nothing to solve it.

Stop pissing people off

Do you actually think people are going to click on one of your ads and put money in your pocket after you’ve spent the last five minutes pissing them off in every way possible with intrusive ads? Er, no. Probably not.

In theory, putting things right is actually quite simple. Stop producing junk content, slapping ads all over the place and then complaining when people don’t like it. Produce content worth reading and use ads in a way that doesn’t interrupt the user experience (it’s not that hard) and suddenly all is right in the world of display advertising.

Unfortunately, the reality is that much of the damage has already been done and it’s going to be difficult to win people’s trust back. It’s going to take a big effort from the online advertising and publishing communities to get things in order and solve the problem we created in the first place. After all, it’s us that are getting hit in the pocket and being stubborn about it.