As technology enables new channels of communication, it is easier than ever for brands to contact existing and potential customers. Used correctly, advances in digital technology enable brands to communicate effectively and efficiently, relaying useful and interesting information that encourages customer loyalty and drives sales.

However, when brands get the balance wrong and use channels to bombard an audience with content, it can lead to consumers placing a barricade between themselves and any kind of promotional content online. The ease of access to ad-blockers means that companies are running the risk of cutting themselves off from consumers online, as they embrace this technology as a shield from flurries of online adverts.

There are signs that consumers are now seeking to limit how much information is available to brands as technology enables businesses to collect and analyse customer data to improve their offering to individuals.

Recent research conducted by Toluna[1] revealed that over half of respondents (53%) think there are too many online ads, and half (50%) say they ignore the adverts they see online altogether. More than a third of people think that online advertising is too invasive (35%), and only 6 per cent of browsers say they would regularly click on online ads to investigate a product further.

In the past, brands could ignore such statistics, as there was no easy way for people to put up a wall between themselves and the content directed their way.

Brands can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to ad-blocking technology Now, however, people are taking substantial action against being forced to view adverts as a by-product of browsing the internet. Over a quarter of UK residents (27%) say that they are currently using an ad-blocker, with reasons ranging from a sentiment that there are too many adverts, to feeling intruded upon, and concerns about security. Whatever the reason, brands can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to ad-blocking technology.

Instead of relying on host websites to become more proactive in deterring the use of ad-blockers – with most online streaming sites now forcing viewers to disable any blocking software – brands should help find a middle-ground with their customers when it comes to online advertising.

If people find this form of approach too invasive, brands should look for a way of bringing the customer along with them on the communications journey, giving them more of a part to play.

Research suggests that if people were given a more active role in donating their data to inform the adverts that they saw, their reliance on ad-blockers would likely decrease. In fact, 35% of respondents said they would allow third-parties to collect more information about them if they received a share of the money that advertisers paid for this data.

Ultimately, it seems that the prospect of receiving tangible discounts change how people view online advertising. If advertisers paid them, 41% of people say they would share more information. A similar number (40%) would also share a list of products they had recently searched for online with advertisers if they received exclusive discounts to those products in return.

Creating this partnership with a target audience is essential – giving your customers a more integral role within the advertising process may help break down the boundaries that people are putting up to keep brands away.

By explicitly bringing customers into the process, brands can redefine what advertising is in a digital age. As advertising has moved online and consumers have gained greater agency in finding brands and deals, simply promoting products and services can be counterproductive.

If brands offer incentives for people sharing their viewing habits, then the consumer-brand relationship becomes more clearly defined. By offering consumers discounts and savings in exchange for personal data, brands can remind their customers that they take on board their feedback and that the process is mutually beneficial.

Equally, by making the process more transparent brands can present a less corporate and more personal face to the public. If an individual trusts a company with their information then it is a reasonable expectation for customers to expect something in return. Consumer awareness of where their data is being used has never been higher , and neither has their ability to directly provide feedback to brands – it is a logical next step for companies to link up the two in a way which benefits their customers.

Customers may be less likely to use ad-blockers if they decide who advertises to them, what the advertisers can know and truly recognise the benefits of sharing this information.

[1] Based on a survey of 1000 UK respondents.