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Cardinal Path Point of View: Ad Blocking

Cardinal Path Point of View: Ad BlockingEveryone’s talking about Apple’s newest version of its iOS mobile operating system, which enables users to install apps that block certain types of content – like ads and video.

While the reactions have ranged from highly alarmed to measured, most people agree on one reason why the sky won’t be falling anytime soon:

“Because Apple is such a dominant company, this new ad-blocking technology has stirred people up,” writes John Naughton on, “My hunch is that the impact of the iOS change itself will be relatively small: the iPhone is very profitable, but it has only about 15% of the global smartphone market, and the content-blocking facility only works on the newest model – the iPhone 6.

But there is real reason to start planning for a future in which ads will be blocked easier and more often than in the past – the trend isn’t going to abate.

According to PageFair, an industry blog that measures the cost of ad blocking:

  • Ad blocking estimated to cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015
  • Ad blocking grew by 41% globally in the last 12 months
  • There are now 198 million active adblock users around the world.   


There are a few important takeaways for digital marketers here.

First and foremost is to understand what the user is saying when he or she chooses to block certain content.

It’s not: “I don’t value what you offer.” What people are saying is: “I want a better user experience.”

The word is getting around about ad blockers and those words are: faster loading times, no more pop-ups and a better all-around user experience on a mobile device.

If you look at it this way, there’s an opportunity here for marketers to take action to improve that user experience before a critical mass of people start resorting to ad blockers.

Improve your mobile experience

  • Optimize your code, and heavy assets like images and videos, to reduce page load times for mobile devices. This improves the user experience, and helps to positively impact your rankings for Google mobile searches.
  • Make sure it’s seamless for people to click from their email onto a website so that they can experience an optimized mobile experience rather than trying to navigate the desktop version of your site through their phone.
  • If at all possible, give people a choice for watching a video before bombarding them with it when they land on your site.
  • Check in with third party vendors and make sure they’re enabling you to offer the best possible mobile experience.

Before considering your ad budgets…

Before you start wondering how to re-allocate advertising budget in response to this new trend, talk to your ad vendors and publishers.

Ask them if they know, or can estimate, what percentage of impressions will go to users who have ad blocking apps installed.  Ask them how that plays itself out in terms of the audiences you are targeting – different segments of consumers will have varying rates of adopting new technologies and that can have an impact on your planning.

What to do about data?

A worst-case scenario in which you start losing a higher percentage of data from Apple’s mobile users is actually a good opportunity to understand that no marketer should be putting all his or her eggs in a single basket.

“Getting to know your customers or potential customers will become ever more important and that means tapping into a wide, diversified dataset,” says Dave Booth, founding partner, Cardinal Path. “Develop a strategy that is informed by data: blending customer data that helps you understand who people are with behavioral data around what they’re doing provides the raw materials for analysis that can tell you where to spend your next marketing dollar, what message should be personalized to whom, and where you can go and find more prospects.”

If anything, the foundational tenets of inbound marketing – offering relevant and timely content that creates faithful brand advocates – will come more into play in a world with more ad blocking users. And to do great inbound marketing, you need to know your customer very, very well.


The push towards ad blocking reiterates to marketers that consumers care about privacy and about a great user experience. It’s a reminder that we have a responsibility to be more open and transparent about how we deliver ads and use web analytics trackers.

As marketers, we know there are many benefits for consumers when they agree to let us learn more about them and tailor their online mobile experience. This may be a watershed moment in which we start talking about those benefits and how we can keep them flowing, while also delivering the user experience people so dearly want.



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