When Apple launches iOS 9, a move widely believed will happen this week, those in digital marketing and sales will be paying close attention. That’s because the new operating system will allow users to install an ad blocker, something no previous incarnation has done.
Adblock Plus is also doing its part to rid the world of the scourge of mobile advertising, having yesterday launched its very own Android- and iOS-compatible browser. While the company is perhaps rightfully proud to have beaten Apple to the punch, the timing is less important than the effect.
Because while desktop browsers have allowed people to download ad-blocking software for years, doing so on our iPads, iPhones, and other mobile devices has the potential to drastically alter how advertisers reach us — especially given the simple fact that mobile media consumption now outstrips that of all other digital platforms.
So what does this all mean for branded content?
The bad news for advertisers partial to the medium, and for publishers whose revenue stream depends on it ━ big publishers like BuzzFeed, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Atlantic ━ is that ad-blocking apps like those likely to be available for iOS 9 devices treat branded content just as they do banner ads. That is, they remove them.
This is indeed a major blow for publishers all across the digital spectrum, as any impact on their ability to sell native advertising compromises the medium’s revenue-generating potential. And make no mistake, that potential is huge: it’s estimated that native advertising could account for upward of $21B in revenue by 2018.
The better news is that, despite the expected disruption, native advertising will survive. There will be hiccups, but at least one of two things will likely happen in response to Apple’s new rollout: either a) developers will come up with workarounds preventing ad blockers from blocking branded content; or b) native advertising will evolve to even more closely resemble editorial content, thereby evading the pesky blockers.
Regardless of outcome, we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, it might not be a bad idea to brush up on the ins and outs of native advertising. At the very least, doing so will illustrate just how big this could be.