The rise of ad blockers is a warning about the future of selling online.

Ad blockers and bricked up windows

According to a recent report from PageFair, the use of ad blockers grew by 30% in 2016 alone.

By the end of 2016, there were over 615 million devices with ad blockers installed worldwide. 62% of those devices were mobile.

A couple of years ago it was only the nerds who were blocking ads. Now it’s gone mainstream. And it’s not just younger people who are doing this. The spread across age groups is surprisingly even.

This spells big trouble for both advertisers and the media sites that carry their ads.

The advertisers sense, quite rightly, that their ads are being viewed by fewer and fewer people.

And the websites that carry advertising as a core part of their revenue stream are facing an uncertain future.

So what’s happening here? Why the sudden surge in the use of ad blockers?

It’s really not so hard to figure out.

Ads are intrusive and annoying for the most part. For generations, in the offline world, we have accepted them as a necessary evil. Buy a magazine, and expect tons of glossy ads. Turn on your TV and expect your favorite shows to be interrupted by commercials.

When you don’t have a choice, you accept these things.

But when you DO have a choice, and when that choice is as simple as installing an ad blocking extension or app to your computer or phone… well, why not?

Why subject yourself to all those ads if you can avoid them?

Marketers are slowly finding alternatives to the traditional ad formats that are now being blocked.

Companies are getting the word out there by sponsoring content. Sponsored content gives them the exposure and goodwill they’re looking for, without being blocked.

Another way companies are reaching out is through social media influencers. If you have a large and growing following on one or more social media channels, it won’t be long before you’re approached by a company or its PR agency. They’ll be looking for ways to get their message out through your posts and updates.

Again, they get the exposure they want, without being blocked.

Over time marketers will find more and more alternatives to reaching their audiences online.

But there is more to be concerned about if you’re selling online.

This isn’t just about the ads.

People aren’t blocking ads because there’s something inherently bad about them.

They block ads for the same reason you try to avoid that neighbor who keeps trying to sign you up for his multi-level marketing team.

It’s not just about the ads, it’s about the language and attitude of the ads.

Mostly it’s about the language.

Because most copywriting – if we’re completely honest about it – is a little pushy and a tad manipulative.

Don’t feel offended. I do the same as a copywriter. It’s part of what makes traditional copywriting work so well.

When I deliberately tweak my message to touch a reader emotionally… when I talk about savings, scarcity and limited time offers… I’m being manipulative. It goes with the job description.

But the rise of ad blockers is a warning signal.

It’s reminding us that in the online world people have options and choices that weren’t available to them with offline media.

They can tune us out and turn us off.

And this means we need to start changing the way we talk to our readers when we write ads, emails and sales page.

Our readers have a sensitivity to promotional language they didn’t have offline. Or if they did, they didn’t have the means to respond or opt out.

Hence the need to move over to conversational copywriting.

Going forward you should depend less on traditional, promotional copywriting when selling online. Because you’re going to get ignored or even blocked.

Focus more on conversational copywriting, which is more in tune with the online environment and isn’t going to offend or upset anyone.

To better understand what I mean by conversational copywriting, its history and its future… check out my previous post, “My 19-year romance with conversational copywriting explained”.

That should serve as a good primer on this topic.


NOTE: I have an entire course devoted to the craft of Conversational Copywriting.


Conversational Copywriting ad

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