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Tech Savvy: Ad Blockers R Us

Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week we're going to take a look at a topic that's really gained a lot of steam here lately - blocking online and digital ads in your browsers and apps.

Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week we're going to take a look at a topic that's really gained a lot of steam here lately - blocking online and digital ads in your browsers and apps.

Really the topic is nothing new, especially for mobile phone users, and there are pros and cons to both sides. I know, I know, I work in advertising so I must be getting ready to hit you with a sledgehammer of excuses of why we shouldn't use ad blockers and let ourselves be inundated with ads from everyone under the sun. Well, yes and no.

Let's break it down into three short portions - what ad blockers do, what are the pros and cons, then we'll wrap it up with my quick take on the whole situation.

So, what is it exactly that ad blockers do and to what level of efficiency? Ad blockers are designed to do just that - block the ads you see. Since the dawn of retail, businesses have used marketing and advertising to introduce products and services to the community. It's effective, and often the fastest way to bring a message to a large number of people. It also goes hand in hand with the desire of portions of the community who would be perfectly happy to never see an ad. Whether it's a feeling they are being targeted or hounded, or they may feel that content should be kept pure and not diluted with any messages that are not related to the content, there is a (growing) segment of the population that will take sometimes extreme measures to avoid marketing.

Enter the Ad Blocker. There are numerous apps and software programs that fit this description and their job is pretty simple - identify ads and remove them from the equation. In many cases the ad blockers work within your Internet browser (like Firefox, Chrome, etc), and will identify the ad space and then reformat the content you're reading to omit the space the ads take up so you only see the content.

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There are varying degrees of efficacy, but the end goal is ultimately the same, use this software to cut out some of the distractions so you can focus solely on what you intended to do in the first place.

The pros are pretty obvious - less ads means less pressure to purchase a product, or maybe you're just sick of seeing those pop up browser windows promoting the latest and greatest dietary supplement.

Really this feature is basically what all ad blockers hang their hats on, and not a whole lot else. For many consumers the ad blocking capability is enough of an appeal that they don't need any extra services to consider. Many ad blockers are also free, which is another obvious pro in their favor.

Many are also relatively simple to use with their default settings. They often come preconfigured to what the developer has identified as common settings and that's what they launch with. The majority of blockers also have at least some degree of customization so the user can adjust the level of blocking, or allow certain sites to show ads.

This leads into the cons. If you have an ad blocker, why would you ever allow it to let ads through? Simple - ads and marketing serve a purpose and pretty much everyone needs this information at one time or another.

I get it, I really do, I don't necessarily want to feel like I'm tuned into the home shopping network all day, but let's admit the obvious, everyone is a consumer at some point, and if I am making a purchase I want to be confident in my buy and that where I'm purchasing it as is reputable. Marketing and advertising plays an important role in how confident we feel in making selections and there are so many types of marketing that you may be surprised at how you interact with it.

The obvious ads are the ones targeted by blockers - the ones you see on websites and in apps. However, you have to consider that if you've ever written a review of a product or a service you are also part of the marketing machine. It's true that you may be writing a positive or negative review to help fellow consumers, but if you like the product or service you've probably used words like "recommend" or phrases like "I'd buy it again." Those types of actions make you a brand advocate and contributes to the marketing for that business. Similarly if you've ever posted a negative review, you may have suggested another option which will influence others. Like it or not, advertising, even the blatant ones, influence our decisions and help us make more informed decisions.

The other downside to ad blockers that comes to mind is how it affects your equipment- your computer or mobile device and the performance of them. Many ad blockers are either a separate piece of software or a separate program, like a browser, that you have to use on top of the existing software you are already using. While some are fairly lightweight and may not require much in additional resource, you can't add programs or softwares without them taxing your existing equipment to a certain degree. Some programs work within existing browsers, like Chrome, but Chrome is inherently heavy anyway and may bog down when using it with the added weight of a program running on top of it, like an ad blocker. It may not be noticeable, but by running any additional application it may be the difference between adequate performance from your device to making it feel sluggish or slow.

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So, what's my take on the whole situation? Ad blockers can offer a refuge from some of the ads that you see, but overall the world of marketing and advertising is changing and expanding and in the end you may find yourself missing out on important information.

In many cases advertising is being used for different methods and purposes depending on the style of marketing the business wants to achieve. No longer is it a one size fits all approach where businesses are forced to cram branding, sales or information into the same format. Digital display advertising, the type of advertising blocked by the ad blockers, is seeing different use than it did before. In time, it will adapt, rework itself, or go away to a certain degree to serve specific purposes - branding, page and content sponsoring, etc. Many have heard of retargeting and native advertising, these types of advertising will also adapt and change to provide a better marketing experience to consumers, to the point where businesses use marketing to establish expertise in areas their business exists. Businesses are already taking those first steps - establishing with consumers why they are relevant not only in the product and services, but also the context around the products and services.

Ad blockers serve a purpose for the moment, and as marketing strategies change their use will change and more than likely decline. Marketing companies, like ourselves, are realizing that marketing isn't confined to the same channels that it used to be and are looking at how businesses can bring the consumers what they want through content and information rather than only the traditional methods. By blocking ads you, as a consumer, are also missing out on information that you may find useful in your daily life, some things can't be conveyed properly through content - flash sales and specials for example - as a consumer we need to recognize how marketing methods are being used to provide us with the right information at the right time, in the right manner.

As someone who technically falls under the millenial age group, I don't buy into the necessity of ad blockers, but I am coming to expect my marketing options to be more diverse in presentation and methodology to reach consumers in a way that isn't viewed as intrusive or unnecessary.

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