Ad blockers are in the news again this week as Google has rolled out an update to their popular browser, Chrome, which will ramp up the browser's ad blocking capabilities. Since Chrome is used by roughly 56% of all internet users, changes to Chrome directly impact many users and also inform how other browsers develop their own product.
In this post we will walk you through what this particular update means, how advertising fits into the broader marketing picture on the internet in 2018, and how you should think about advertising's place in your broader apartment marketing strategy.
What ads will Chrome now block?
Google claims that this update is about improving user experience on the internet. You definitely shouldn't take that at face value. One of the biggest winners when Google makes an update like this is Google because their ads conveniently fly under the radar. That said, the UX explanation does provide some help in understanding what kind of ads this update is targeting.
(image source: Coalition for Better Ads)
As you can see, there are 12 types of ads Google is targeting. The images tell you roughly what they are, but we'll give short text descriptions to hopefully make things a bit clearer.
- Pop-up ads: Ads that pop-up above the primary content on the web page and prevent users from interacting with it.
- Prestitial ads with countdown: Large pop-up ads that cover up primary content and only close after a certain amount of time has passed.
- Auto-play video ads with sound: Ads that automatically play videos that begin with the sound on rather than muted
- Large sticky ads: Ads that take up a large portion of the screen and "stick" in the browser as the user scrolls up and down on the page.
- Mobile pop-up ads: Same as 1, but on mobile.
- Prestitial ads: Ads that pop up above the primary content immediately upon visiting the site.
- Mobile auto-play video ads with sound: Same as 3, but on mobile.
- Poststitial ads with countdown: Very similar to 2, but on mobile.
- Density >30%: Ads that take up more than 30% of the screen real estate on mobile devices
- Flashing animated ads: Fairly self-explanatory: ads that pop-up and flash to catch the user's attention.
- Large "sticky" ads: Any large ads that stick to a certain portion of the screen even as you browse up and down on the browser.
- Full-screen scroll over ads: An ad that appears as you scroll down the page and then fills up the entire screen.
If any of the ads you use fit this description, those ads are going to start getting blocked on Chrome browsers.
How does this affect the general role of advertising in online marketing?
The big story here is actually less about Google blocking more ads and is more about Google blocking more ads, if that makes sense. In other words, the action being taken is less important than the party taking the action.
We are currently in a transitional era for the internet. In the early days, the internet functioned as a kind of wild west—on the one hand, this made it "accessible" to everyone; on the other, you had to know a lot to access the internet and get the most value out of using it.
The emergence of large tech companies in this space has helped with this problem a ton: Remember back when you were afraid of shopping online because you didn't know how secure your information would be? Now we buy things on Amazon all the time plus from other online vendors like eBay and vendors that have storefronts as well, like Target and Walmart.
Similarly, setting up a personal online presence and setting up email are both extremely easy today thanks to Facebook and Google in ways that they were not in the days of Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod, and Juno.
Finally, finding information has gotten much easier as Google has emerged as the best and most dominant search engine and
In this sense, having larger players on the internet has helped improve individual user experience a ton.
There is a trade off though: As a smaller number of companies come to define what the internet is, they have greater power over their users.
So, for example, Facebook doesn't need to worry about showing people things that would take their users off of Facebook. They can keep them locked into Facebook with Notes, photos stored within Facebook, and so on. And they don't have to worry about showing a brand's posts to that brand's followers on Facebook. They can charge the brand to reach their followers.
Google can do similar things. The blue organic links have become less and less a part of the search experience, being replaced by more and more search features and more and more ads.
The result is that if you are a brand that wants to reach people on the internet via Google or Facebook—the two dominant platforms on the web—you'll need to, as they say, pay to play.
This is why we say the big story here isn't really that someone is blocking ads. Ad blockers are old news. The story here is that Google is blocking more ads and specifically ads that are commonly made by companies besides Google. But Google's AdWords ads, display ads, local pack ads, and all the rest are all still showing up just fine.
What does this mean for apartment marketers?
A good underlying rule of thumb with the apartment marketing space is that tech innovations often are not as disruptive for our industry as some of the hypemakers in the tech world would like us to think.
The simple reality is that many of the ads Google is now blocking were wildly unpopular, mostly ineffective, and not hosted or produced by major tech companies anyway. The ads that actually produce results and provide value for your community are mostly ads on Google and maybe occasionally ads on Facebook. And those ads are completely unaffected by the changes made to Chrome.