Simon Halstead
Simon Halstead 1 February 2019

Can native turn young consumers off ad blocking?

Digital ad spend may be growing, but new research reveals that an increasing number of consumers say they now have implemented some sort of ad blocker in place across desktop and mobile devices. We look at why native content can boost brand affinity for customers and make ads more relevant for them.

Digital ad spend may be growing but our new research reveals 40 percent of 18-24-year olds in the UK say they now have some sort of ad blockers in place on desktop devices (19% mobile).

We've heard the reasons for this before: some ads are too disruptive; frustration of ads slowing down load times; some users don't like irrelevant ads. But one of the biggest reasons is that this specific audience want control of their content experience.

But consumers are willing to engage with brands if they’re actively involved and know that they’ll receive quality content experiences in return. In fact, through testing 6,000 European consumers’ reactions to ads, we also found that 34% of UK 18-24 year old desktop users who were running ad blockers would be more receptive to ads if they were more relevant to them and 44% wouldn’t mind seeing them if there were less of them on a page. felt more natural on the page. On mobile, 40% of all 18-24s asked who used ad blockers wouldn’t mind seeing ads if they were more relevant.  

While I don’t think we’ll ever see the back of ad blocking, we will see a shift in consumer perception to ads in the coming years, if brands give consumers more control. The introduction of 5G will also help provide better, smoother experiences but native advertising can have the biggest role to play in serving digital ad experiences young consumers can get on board with.

Currently some marketers are limiting the value that native offers by viewing the format as just a tool to increase click through rate. But native content can have both a behavioural and emotional impact on individuals. This in turn can have a huge impact on brand affinity. Here’s how and why advertisers can take advantage.

Native can create subconscious brand affinity
In our study we looked at both the implicit reactions of people interacting with advertising within content on both desktop and mobile, as well as asked questions about their experience.

We know that by closely integrating and aligning with editorial content, native ads maximise contextual relevance and serve relevant, natural experiences. Just like editorial, consumers can (and do) pick and choose what they want to engage with. The format is not intrusive. It respects consumers’ boundaries, all while adding value to their experience.

But this engagement is more than just clicking through to content – native ads can trigger a positive, subconscious reaction in consumers.

Our study showed that there was a ten per cent increase in positive brand associations for native ads compared to traditional display ads, when examining the behaviour of UK consumers. Further to this 26 per cent of UK participants were more likely to recommend brands that they had encountered on native ads and 15 per cent more likely to consider purchasing from that brand. By complementing the experience rather than disrupting it, consumers were more likely to take on board a brand message.

Consumer trust in premium places
In-feed native advertising has become a necessity for online publishers and in some cases is more powerful on quality news sites than on social networks. Our series of tests revealed that it’s the trust associated with these premium publisher environments that helped improve brand affinity scores from native, driving a ten per cent increase in positive brand associations compared to non-premium sites.

In-feed native also delivered greater viewing and brand impact compared to bottom of page native ads, with over double the average time spent in view, 11 per cent higher brand advocacy score and 35 per cent positive subconscious association.

5G paving the way for innovation
The first 5G-ready smartphones are expected to be released in 2019 and we’ll finally be able to enjoy broadband-like download speeds wherever we are. With almost no waiting time for downloads, and smooth streaming, advertisers can serve up premium video content without concerns over the viewing experience. Given one of the core drivers of enabling ad blockers is due to load time – this presents a great opportunity for brands.

5G will also give advertisers more confidence to create immersive ad content using technology like Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR). However, all ad experiences will need to be seamlessly served to complement this superior content experience. Native provides the perfect environment for these interactive experiences.

Native ads will see growth industry wide and the format will continue to impact everything from purchase intent to brand lift - both online and instore. The great thing about native advertising is that it is a format that will evolve alongside changes in the digital landscape. And while 40 per cent of younger consumers are using ad blockers on desktop now – native ad formats will continue to adapt and complement experiences in such a way that this audience won’t want to miss out on them in the future.  

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