What does it take to persuade jaded ad block users to lower their guard? An impassioned plea on behalf of millions of impoverished children apparently does the trick.
UNICEF Sweden is test-running banner ads on the homepage of Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that appear only to ad blocker-equipped visitors with the message: “Children’s rights should never be blocked.”
The campaign is meant to symbolize the plight of neglected children around the world â while also pointing out that ad blockers are a bane to the UN agency’s online advocacy efforts.
“Children’s voices are already blocked in the real world, we thought that they shouldn’t be blocked online too,” said Edelman Deportivo CEO Mattias Ronge, whose agency partnered with the organization to run the ads.
Publishers aren’t the only ones that stand to lose from the surging popularity of ad blockers. Nonprofits that rely on ads to publicize their causes are also worried the software could weaken their fundraising and outreach drives.
But unlike the apathy shown towards appeals from profit-starved media websites, ad block users actually seem to be heeding the message. The UNICEF ad enticed 300% more people to click than the average banner ad â about 3% of all viewers â and of those who did, one in ten signed up on the site.
“Not only did that audience that said no to all ads click on it, but they did so at a frequency much higher than a regular audience,” Ronge said.
The UNICEF ad’s power to cut through ad blockers was made possible by technology that senses whether a visitor has one installed and gives websites the option of circumventing it.
Similar entreaties have achieved dismal results when attempted by for-profit sites. Ireland-based PageFair â one of a growing number of companies that peddles this sort of defensive service â reported last year that only a small fraction of a percent of the 576 appeals it ran on more than 200 websites managed to win anyone over.
“It’s few and far between that only appealing to their good will is enough to modify users’ behavior,” Ben Barokas, founder and CEO of another ad block defense firm called Sourcepoint, told Mashable in an earlier interview.
Still, websites are increasingly eager to try anything they can as the number of people downloading ad blockers continues to grow. The Washington Post has experimented with shutting out readers with ad blockers, and the New York Times said during an earnings call this week that it is exploring a “number of options” for fighting back.
The threat is especially real in Europe where ad blocker adoption has spread more rapidly than it has in the United States. One quarter of Swedish web surfers are estimated to have ad blockers installed.
Ronge said the results suggest that ad block users may actually be willing to adjust their habits if given a compelling enough impetus.
“They don’t want to be bothered with stuff they don’t care about,” Ronge said. “But if you bring a message they care about, they actually listen â as anyone would.”
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