If 2015 was the year ad blocking got its foothold, 2016 is looking like the year everybody’s taking advantage of the technology. Barely a week goes by without a fresh news cycle about the challenges posed to the media and advertising industries by ad blocking technology. The persistence of ad blocking headlines is putting continued pressure on advertisers and publishers to rethink their approach to advertising.

But how? What, fundamentally, is forcing consumers to download ad blockers?

A look at some recent data suggests that ad relevance – or lack thereof – is a driving factor. An eMarketer survey, for example, found that nearly 40% of Millennials said they don’t respond to ads because they are “not relevant enough” or “feel intrusive.”

By delivering relevant, well-timed messages that consumers welcome, rather than intruding upon their online experiences, advertisers and publishers can take a step towards ensuring that messages aren’t just fired against an ad blocking wall.

A new advertising discipline called people-based advertising, also referred to as addressable advertising, can help advertisers deliver more relevant experiences. A people-based strategy targets ads at real people rather than cookies across devices and channels. Here are four key ways a people-based approach can benefit advertisers in the fight against ad blockers.

  1. Target customers with pinpoint accuracy.
    Targeting broad demographic segments or unreliable collections of web cookies leaves a ton of room for error. By linking ads to people, rather than cookies, people-based advertising enables brands and media agencies to “buy” only the people they want to reach. No more, no less; reducing the chances they’ll be annoying the wrong audiences. What’s more, real-time addressability allows advertisers to increase the relevance of a digital ad delivered to a customer when she is in market for a specific product, and immediately stop retargeting customers who just purchased an item.

  2. Take advantage of the highest-quality data.
    Addressable advertising is powered by the freshest and most accurate data that a brand can use: its own first-party data. In fact, 82 percent of marketers said they plan to increase their use of first-party data this year because of the value it can add to their customer understanding and engagement. Because first-party data is based on the brand’s direct interactions with customers, it is the key for deriving immediate, unique and granular customer insights – authentic information advertisers will never glean from assumptive third-party “lookalike” data.First-party data gives digital advertisers an easy-button for instant relevancy and targeting efficiency.

  3. Solve the cross-device conundrum.
    The cookie-based tracking methods advertisers have used for 20 years don’t work well across web and mobile devices, wreaking havoc on their ability to target ads and measure outcomes with accuracy. According to a 2015 Econsultancy poll of digital marketers worldwide, less than one-third are capable of recognising customers across web and mobile. People-based marketing solves the cross-device challenge by tying campaigns back to actual people. So advertisers know who they are reaching, who is converting, what campaigns are driving conversions, and which audiences and campaigns are driving more revenue.

  4. See the entire customer journey, not just one stop.
    As customers engage with brands across the web, mobile apps, email, brick-and-mortar stores and other touchpoints, they may be represented by multiple fragmented profiles. A people-based approach pulls all this online and offline data together to create a single view of the customer. Advertisers can understand the cross-channel, cross-device habits of customers and the different steps they take on their path to conversion. This not only helps advertisers deliver the most relevant messages at each stage of the journey, but it also helps inform strategies to pull customers back on the road to conversion.

People-based advertising certainly presents advertisers with strategies to succeed in the new era of ad blocking. What better way to damp down the ad rage than personalising ads and opening the door for a model of advertising that is more meaningful and less intrusive to consumers? It’s not the entire solution, but it’s a significant leap forward in the right direction.

We alsoe xpect to see a push from the IAB for advertisers to adopt best practices to make ads faster-loading and more appealing. Publishers, too, are being significantly affected by ad blocking, and will be increasingly sensitive about running ads that hurt the user experience.In order to deliver more relevant advertising and a more personalised experience, publishers will aim to better understand readers and their interests by leveraging cross-device user data.

It’s still early days in the ad blocking battle: the landscape and technology is changing quickly on all sides. But casting broad nets with advertisements is likely to waste ad money and annoy customers. By putting the customer’s experience first and making better use of the right data, businesses can listen more closely to what customers want the moment they want it, helping to drive better value in their media spend.

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