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We’ve lost count of the number of times that change has forced marketers’ best-laid plans into disarray.

Now, rumors are heating up that Google will block some “high impact’ ad formats from the Chrome browser. Those very ads that drove high-ROI for your business… or so you thought.

It’s no secret that everyone hates intrusive ads. Most of us would agree that the formats identified by the Coalition for Better Ads degrade the user experience of websites. These may be on the chopping block for Chrome users:

  • Pop-ups
  • Auto-playing videos with sound
  • Prestitials with countdowns
  • Large, sticky ads
  • Flashing animations on mobile
  • Full-screen scrollover ads on mobile

Whether or not you agree with the ad-blocking approach, it’s probably inevitable. Even without Google, the use of ad blockers keeps growing.

There’s just one problem for publishers: The more intrusive ads, unfortunately, often lead to more ad revenue for publishers. At the same time, if Chrome blocks pop-ups, this could harm marketers’ customer-acquisition efforts.

Pop-ups inviting you to sign up for a newsletter or other “important” information have become ubiquitous on the sites of major news organizations and little blogs alike. They may appear after a predetermined amount of time passes, when the mouse travels up to the navigation bar or as a block to consuming the page’s content.

It’s not clear if the rumored blocking of pop-ups would include those generated by the site’s publisher. These are usually fired by the CMS, not an ad server. If they, too, are blocked, it would cause increased disruption to the acquisition side of marketing.

The situation may not be as bad as it seems, however. We’ve found that people often provide junk email addresses for these anyway:

  • Overall, 47% of consumers said they have email addresses they use only for emails they don’t really want
  • One third (34.1%) of older consumers have a “junk mail” email address
  • Close to three fifths (57.4%) of younger consumers do this

In other words, this kind of pop-up may simply be filling the CRM with email addresses that are false or never checked. So, it may not be that much of a loss. Still, this tactic is a primary source of customer engagement for many companies. Those with younger audiences will find secondary email addresses to be a reality to contend with.

If Chrome blocks pop-ups, it will give even more weight to the truism that it’s more expensive and difficult to acquire a customer than to retain one. Customer retention will become more crucial than ever. In fact, in our List Strategies Report of 85 marketers found that they are already prioritizing retention over customer acquisition in their email marketing strategies.


Personalization and automation

Ad blocking aside, loyalty programs, First-Person Marketing and optimized message delivery should top every advertiser’s list.

Our recent survey of marketers found that the majority are working to improve email personalization. The industry will need to combine this with automation in order to personalize email at scale. Individualized email messaging–what we call First-Person Marketing–was considered the most effective tactic among the marketers we surveyed, at 45 percent.

So, don’t wait around, wondering what Google is going to do. Instead, focus on marketing strategies that are proven to work. Get off the invasive advertising treadmill and make real connections.