Ecommerce : how video can overcome the impact of Ad-blockers

09th July 2020

Ecommerce faces many challenges and today, and in this blog I’m going to be picking just one of these, ad blockers, and talking about how video can help to minimise it’s impact. I’ll be looking at how the right video, at the right time along with emotional engagement can all give your brand the edge it needs to succeed.

Now at this point, I could reel off dozens of statistics about how vital video is your online business. I could show how it increases brand awareness, lowers bounce rates, drives up dwell time, and increases profits. But the internet is full of these stats and they are just a quick google away. Instead I’ll sum it all up in the words of Nicola Mendelsohn, one of the VPs at Facebook who quite simply states that “The future is Video, Video, Video”.

So, let’s move onto the problem. Ad Blockers

Depending on which side of the line you stand ad blocking is a revelation that changes your viewing experience, speeds up sites, saves data and allows uncontested digital real estate. Or, it’s a pesky upstart that means people cannot be served content that’s relevant to them, and that costs business vast sums of money. So munch money in fact that if U.K. publishers took every reasonable countermeasure to combat ad blockers, the technology would still lose the industry around £1.3 Billion in 2020.


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In many ways, the success of the online ad industry opened the door to it’s own downfall. With 5.3 trillion display ads being shown online each year it should be no surprise that 41% of people feel overwhelmed by the volume of choice on the internet. It is also no wonder that many of these people look for ways to self curate what they see. Ad blockers are not new, in fact their use has stayed about the same In the uk for the past 4 years with around 24% of British Online Adults using ad blocking software. But the industry still looks back to the announcement in 2015 that Apple’s iOS 9, would now support ad blocking technology with deep concern that it may open the way for the more widespread Android systems to follow suit.

So, how do brands looking for video production, work in a world where access to consumer through banners and other paid activity is getting harder and competition is constantly increasing? Well here are the three big things for me.

  1. Create Search focused content that gets brands found without ads
  2. use native content to evade ad blockers
  3. Create more effective content that is worth watching

Lets just go through these in turn

1: Use organic search focused content top drive performance

Organic search is, for me, the most obvious thing that all Ecommerce brands should be allocating budget to. Good content, that’s genuinely useful and highly searchable entirely side steps ad blockers, it sits on social channels for as long as you want and it consistently delivers traffic. It can also be reversioned to sit on your site itself to attract search results and drive up conversions. Many brands have started doing it, but a fair few that have don’t do it well.

The principle to effective organic content is to stop thinking like an TV advertiser (pushing into peoples lives), and start thinking like a publisher (that people choose to visit). It’s a basic principle yet it takes more commitment than you think and its a a very different skillset from advertising. My big tip with this content is start from your proven keywords and work backwards to the content. Search users are typically looking for a specific solution to a precise problem and if you offer them that, your engagement rates will go through the roof.

To show this in action, last year we did a really successful campaign for the pet pharmaceutical company Beaphar. They wanted to out-sell a competitors anti flea treatments but couldn’t rely on ad spend. So they turned to a search solution which started with the key phrase “How to get rid of fleas for good”? The key to high engagement rates in films like this is to too ensure that people know in the first 10 seconds that this content will answer their needs, with an explicit statement in the title, copy and the film itself. You can see the film below; note how the narrative quickly makes clear that the question will be answered, which reduces bounce rate and drives up engagement.

Now, highly discoverable content is all very well and good.. but what brands want is actual leads. You should explore retargeting with additional content for sure, but there is one very easy win. For me Email capture is underused. Almost all good online video platforms allow for mid or end flow capture screens. You can even choose to gate the content with it if you wanted. Take a look at Vimeo, and Twenty Three as two different solutions that have this function.

2. Native advertising

The step up from content for search is to create content for native advertising. Native advertising is paid content that appears seamlessly in-feed that is inherently non-disruptive. It’s not openly promotional and provides more engaging, information-based content that is much harder for ad blockers to spot and stop.

Native is an industry buzz words that won’t be going way, In fact, spend in the US on Native will grow 36% this year to reach 22 billion dollar which will be over half of all display ad spending in the US.

Native ads deliver better engagement metrics than any other type of traditional display advertising. They usually have higher acceptance rates and conversion rates. What’s even more important for eCommerce is that one-third of millennials say they’ve purchased a product after seeing sponsored content. Which underlines how investing in native advertising can be a great way to counteract falls in penetration because of ad blockers

But like many things in life, native advertising is not a silver bullet. when it’s done right and placed in the right way it can get you to a whole new audience. But, if it’s done wrong, it’s just another ad that will get blocked. Almost all ad blockers work by detecting third-party JavaScript, which they preventing from running as the page loads. So native ad platforms that work on a programmatic basic still run a high risk of being blocked. To be truly native you need to be uploaded by the publisher sites CMS or run in specific social formats like these.

  • Sponsored Posts on Facebook
  • Promoted Videos on Twitter
  • Sponsored Posts on Instagram
  • Promoted Pins on Pinterest
  • Recommended videos on YouTube

Let’s take a look at an example of really good native content. This campaign was a Facebook native video from Microsoft to drive awareness of games consoles.

In addition to more than 150,000 reactions to date, it’s had over 5,700 comments. Plus, people have shared the video more than 40,000 times, expanding its reach beyond Microsoft’s own fans. Now, I show this video as an example of native placement’s, but how it was served to viewers wasn’t the only reason it was so effective. It works because if makes us feel something and that’s what we are going to look at in my next tactic for overcoming ad blockers… Product videos that make emotional connections.

Product videos on sites are very common things and when they’re done right they can do a great job of driving up results. In the world of ad blockers this increase in conversion rates is become ever more important. Fundamentally, videos alongside products, with a good UX that has a clear play button and no nasty pop up players can make a massive different to sales. A well optimised and highly targeted video, that has personality can drive up conversions by 5 times. But this is not true of all videos. Content that doesn’t’ deliver what it promises in the title, that is from a manufacturer rather than being site specific, that adds no detail above what is in the stills, or that lacks emotional connections don’t perform anywhere near as well. Basically not all product videos are created equally.

If you have budget available you may choose to make a video for every product, and this may be the right approach, but keep an eye on cost benefits as it might not give the best ROI. There is also a temptation, and i’ve had several clients who have wanted to do this, to put videos alongside the best performing products to further boost sales. In fact, the best performance gains will come by focusing on products that need more explanation… because that is what video is good at. It’s easier to spend money on products that are making money but think holistically across the catalogue and decide if videos really add to the experience.

This takes me to subject that makes me sound like a stuck record, I think I talk about it constantly… but it’s important. The number one key to success for video is that they should make emotional connections with an audiences. And this applies to product videos and ecommerce just as much as anywhere else. I’ve written about the importance of emotion in video at length elsewhere, so for the sake of this blog we just need to list three things that have to right when we make product videos.

First, brands should identify a list of emotional drivers of the audience they are targeting. What do they genuinely care about? This might be a need to be first, FOMO, vanity, laziness, wanting to look clever to others, needing to solve a crisis, wanting to look fantastic .. the list goes on

Second, choose the driver from this list that can be brought to life in a video

Third, keep that at the forefront of video strategy, making sure the driver is reflected in the content, titles, thumbnails and description.

Let’s see emotional drivers in action within an Ecommerce video. As a starter, here is a hoody with a unique function.

The driver here is “you can make your mates laugh”. This is aimed at blokey blokes who are hanging out with mates and want an eye catching, funny, statement on their jumper. We don’t need to know anymore, it just works. If you find the video funny you want the hoody. On Youtube the video has 74,000 views. How many would it have it was just a video of someone wearing the jumper and some text that said … “it’s got pockets”!?

This video for Kelty, is designed to show how the product works, but the addition of a little light hearted script at the start, middle and end is enough to bring it to life.

Let’s look at one final example of emotional drivers in e-commerce videos, Heres a product film made by Hurricane. The Emotional drivers is “You can look cool, and be safe.. but mostly look cool”.

So there we go, we’ve covered loads of stuff today. We started by exploring the impact of ad blockers on Ecommerce and then looked at three techniques in which video can help you work around them. One, create content designed to maximise search success, two, explore the use of native ads, and three, ad emotional connections to your videos so that you can deliver better results on page and on social.


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