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Is effective customer communication the best way to defeat ad blockers?

Ad-blocking software continues to threaten businesses in various industries - notably, online publishers, and over-the-top content providers. Companies have tried various methods to get customers to white list their websites or disable the software altogether - methods range from simply asking to denying access to certain content. Regardless of what manner they choose, the conundrum remains. Businesses need a combination of ad and subscription revenue to succeed, while most viewers would prefer online advertising didn't exist.

Ad blocking software presents a problem for online publishers and OTT content providers.Ad blocking software presents a problem for online publishers and OTT content providers.

Contributing to publisher anxiety is the fact that the number of ad-blocking users is expected to increase over the next several years. According to eMarketer research, the number of ad-blocking Americans will rise almost 35 percent this year, hitting 69.8 million. It's expected to reach 86.6 million in 2017 - an increase of 24 percent.

Communicating the case against ad blockers
Part of the reason businesses still struggle with ad blockers is because they ineffectively communicate the need for ad revenue to their customers, The Drum suggested. Many businesses - online publishers especially - use a pop up of their own to ask readers to disable their ad-blocking software. Each business uses its own message and design to communicate this point, and for good reason.

"Ad block messages have clearly demonstrated the significance of very small changes in wording, imagery, framing and layout to influence behavior," Julia Stainforth, a choice architect at Ogilvy Change, told The Drum.

However, such small changes aren't enough. Chris Arning, founder of Creative Semiotics, argued businesses aren't providing creative, informed solutions to their ad block problem. After analyzing the pop ups of various publishers, he found many of them didn't take behavioral science into account. His solution was to humanize the dilemma and show evidence of how detrimental ad-blocking software really is - by giving numbers that reflect how it hurts a journalist's salary, for example.

"Good communication has a positive effect on customer satisfaction."

There's no denying that good communication has a positive effect on customer satisfaction. It's too early to know if Arning's solution is the better choice, but businesses should still use communication best practices regardless. This requires companies to be transparent, which reflects Arning's suggestion to humanize the point of view of publishers and OTT content providers. Many online readers don't understand how ad block software costs businesses because they don't have any tangible evidence. By alerting customers to the direct effects of ad block software, companies are clear and transparent - traits valued by many customers.

In addition, businesses using a subscription billing model must emphasize the benefits of their content when asking users to disable ad block software. By including a reminder that ads help pay for quality content, businesses can change the minds of even the most stubborn viewers.

Incorporating ads as part of an online subscription management business model isn't something every company does, but many find it a good way to provide revenue. There's more to funding content, however, so publishers and OTT content services should be careful not to overstate the need for ads as they work to inform their customers. Part of their strategy should also be to increase their customer acquisition and retention rates to provide a steady stream of revenue from subscription billing.

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