Last month (October 2015) I wrote about how the increasing use of AdBlockers to deal with a growing number of unwanted pop-up adverts may affect the way we access content on the web in the near future. Less than six weeks later, I am now reading about how O2 are looking at ways of introducing network-level ad blocking!

According to Robert Franks, O2’s MD of Digital Commerce, the UK’s largest network carrier is in the advanced stages of “looking into” technology that will be able to block adverts at a network-wide level, before they are even served to your device.

Adblockalypse indeed.

For the past month, I have been running an AdBlocker on my desktop (uBlock Origin, since you ask) so that I could see first-hand what the digital world looks like without all the background noise – and I have to admit I’ve really enjoyed it.

Web pages load quicker. My browser runs faster. And I can actually read content without being shouted at by the constant flashing of invasive adverts.

I admit to feeling slightly guilty when it comes to reading certain sites that no doubt rely upon some of this ad revenue with my AdBlocker switched on. However, my overwhelming feeling is that the industry has only itself to blame by allowing the internet to become overrun with extremely poor adverts.

According to tests carried out by Shine, a big player in the world of AdBlock tech, up to 50% of your data allowance can be also munched by these adverts. This is a real cause for concern for both consumer and operator alike. We all know how much increased data allowances can cost us on our mobile network price plans and the strain is also felt by the networks since this pull on bandwidth is one of the costliest elements to their infrastructure.

For me this is another strong wakeup call for the publishing and digital marketing worlds alike that consumers cannot be taken for granted. People are voting with their feet and now big business is cottoning on to this trend too. It’s not advertising people dislike; it’s bad advertising, and once again these industries will need to adapt and get more creative to strike the right balance in this super-saturated world.

A good advert doesn’t simply offer the right product at the right time; it needs to resonate with the viewer on a deeper emotional level. If we as marketers took more time to strike the right note with our audience, rather than seeing it as a simple numbers game, then our ads would be more highly thought-of and people would be far less likely to want them blocked.

What Can Marketers Do About This?

The challenge for marketers working for publishing brands whose business model is based around advertising revenue is bigger than the challenge facing the rest of the marketing crowd: the marketers who use these ad networks to reach their audiences.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer for both. Let’s look at some possible solutions:

Marketers whose revenue comes from Ads: On the surface, the answer is easy. Start charging your users to access your content. But in practical terms it’s not that simple.

In a competitive news space where the same content is available from a number of sources, unless everyone in that space charges, it’s likely your users will simply gravitate towards the publisher who’s brave enough to publish it for free.

Of course, the answer here is exclusivity. Something I think Apple has done nicely with its Music offering is the inclusion of Apple Radio and curated lists. Being able to discover new music from talented DJs like Zane Lowe is something that’s unique to Apple Music.

The same is true of TV. Each broadcaster has its own exclusive content that’s not available elsewhere. Amazon has The Man In The High Castle, Netflix has House Of Cards, and in the UK Sky has Game Of Thrones.

Could the key to content marketing in 2016 be to have a superstar on your editorial team that creates exclusively for you? Adobe has flirted with this tactic. Earlier this year, its strategy for mobile content included producing podcasts on marketing topics read by the esteemed English actor, Malcolm McDowell. Lots of brands produce podcasts about marketing topics, but only Adobe has Mr. McDowell.

Now, not every brand has Adobe-sized budgets, but with the right mix of content, social media promotion and good ol’ fashioned networking, any business can position its people as the authority within a niche.

Once your publishing business has a voice that is well-respected, entertaining and exclusive, you are in a much stronger position to charge your users for access.

Marketers who use Ad networks for reach: The obvious answer here is, if you can’t place your ads on display networks, you’ll just have to place them somewhere else.

But the key to success is knowing where.

The web is a big place and your customers do much more than just consume news. They use apps, social media, watch videos, play games and search.

Once you understand where your users go, you can reach them with clever tactics.

For example, if you run a restaurant or hotel business, you could redistribute your budget away from display advertising into optimising your content and sponsoring results pages on places like TripAdvisor. Or, if you sell a B2B service, you can redistribute your display budget into LinkedIn and Twitter advertising as they are both recognised as the place where B2B happens.

What Do You Think?

Are you a publisher? Or do you rely on advertising networks to reach your customers? What are your plans? We’d love to hear them @rocketmill