Ad Blocking and Mobile Advertising
“[Google] discovered that it wasn’t just annoying ads that people didn’t like; it was ads in general.”
Advertising has been a part of daily life for as far back as one could imagine. Ancient civilizations used public notices written on papyrus or painted on walls to announce goods for sale or items lost and found. Print ads developed alongside the creation of newspapers in the 18th century, and expanded with the growth of capitalism to include billboards, commercials, and pop-up ads. From DVRs to ad blockers, the ability to avoid intrusive advertising has evolved just as much.
However, ads are crucial to many forms of business, generating revenue for companies in addition to products sold and services rendered. One such business is Google, traditionally known as a search engine, but referred to as an advertising company by many insiders due to the overwhelming amount of revenue Google pulls in from promoting ads within its search results and as banners or popups on associated websites. As an article by Startup Grind on Medium notes, “47% of Google’s revenue” in the United States came from advertising in 2016.
Ad blockers are only growing in popularity. Apple, a primary rival to Google in the mobile sphere, introduced the ability to block ads on iOS products in 2015. The next year, the amount of users blocking ads on mobile devices doubled itself. The numbers will only grow from there, for as Startup Grind notes, “The people most likely to block ads were also the most valuable demographic: millennials and high earners.” Millennials, the generation born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, are entering maturity and increasingly have more control over their internet browsing and television viewing as opposed to their generally less savvy Baby Boomer or Generation X parents, and as the generation continues this trend, the ability for advertisers to reach them on terms other than their own will grow ever more difficult. The same is generally true of high earners, who are also pulling in younger people who care little for ads and know how to avoid them.
Google attempted to address this problem by developing plans for its own ad blocker, native to their popular web browser, Google Chrome. However, Google’s ad blocker would only block ads that they defined as “unacceptable.” However, as Startup Grind points out, “[Google] discovered that it wasn’t just annoying ads that people didn’t like; it was ads in general.” On one hand, research showed that a majority of people did not trust banner ads and so refused to click on them. On another, there was also the growing problem of “banner blindness,” or users having learned to ignore banner ads, not even noticing them on websites.
One major solution to these advertising problems is the use of artificial intelligence to develop advertising and present it in a way that is not only unobtrusive, but also likely to be helpful to consumers, as AI can learn from a user’s habits and present options tailored for them, which are far more likely to create interactions and thus generate revenue. The success of AI in marketing as a replacement for traditional ads, as demonstrated by Alexa, has led to an increased use of AI in many arenas, from coffee shops to retail. For the latter, Shoppi uses data gleaned from users’ shopping history to enhance the user experience by tailoring the products they see according to their preferences. Shoppi allows targeted marketing via keywords or by location, languages, and gender. Not only is this a more subtle approach than banner and pop-up ads, it is also far more likely to appeal to shoppers, especially millennials and high earners, which clearly prefer personalized experiences. With Shoppi, users enjoy their interactions with brands along with barely noticeable advertising, and retail brands learn from their users and build better relationships with their customers through personalization and by showing regard and understanding toward their dislike for generalized, one-size-fits-all ads.