Ad Blocking and the Stronger Case for Paid Social

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Ad blockers have been available for desktop browsers and Android for years but they became the talk of the industry over the past few months, with the release of estimates of what they’re costing ad tech companies and with iOS 9 supported blockers as a catalyst.

Apple’s latest operating system allows users to install mobile applications from the App Store that block ads and tracking scripts. This feature shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to advertisers since Apple gave the green light for developers to build content blockers for Safari, its default web browser, last June. These developments are particularly worrisome because Safari accounts for 55% of U.S. mobile web traffic (while Chrome accounts for 29.9% and Android for 9.5%.)

With mobile undoubtedly the coming battlefield for advertisers, apps are emerging as preliminary winners. Apps like Facebook (or any other social media platform) are essentially immune to ad blocking. (There was an ad blocker called Been Choice that blocked in-app ads but Apple pulled it from the App Store due to privacy concerns.)

That apps aren’t subject to ad blocking makes a strong case for brands to turn to app-based marketing over mobile display, where about half of clicks on ads are accidental. Millennials, who make up more than a quarter of the US population, are part of the first generation of digital natives and have heavy mobile media consumption habits. The average consumer spends 198 minutes in mobile apps each day (more than time spent watching TV), and 75% use social networks at least once a day on their mobile device. Mobile has quickly replaced the desktop as the primary point of entrance to the web for younger consumers.

Social mobile apps are not only immune to ad blockers; they also provide native advertising formats that seamlessly match the way content is consumed on the medium. “Search” and “scroll” are the norm and the experience reading, watching, and listening to digital content is different than with legacy media.

As engagement with traditional media like TV continues to decline (TV viewing amongst 18-24 year-olds has fallen 30% in four years), brands are migrating more ad dollars to social. In fact, spending on social networks was expected to reach $25.14 billion by the end of 2015—higher than originally forecast and 18% of digital ad spending. In 2016, social networks will make up 20% of digital ad spending. With that, brands are expanding reach and getting ads in front of a lot of eyeballs.

What’s more, social networks, which offer unique user experiences, provide advertisers with comprehensive targeting capabilities for enhanced personalization and relevancy. Another important perk of paid social is the scalability made available through automation technology. As marketers launch more campaigns in 2016 and beyond, efficiencies will become even more important.