Ad tech is only half the battle against ad blocking, says Unruly CEO

With the rise of ad-blocking features, how will advertisers reach their customers this year? In the U.K., the answer to this question is one that Unruly’s co-founder and co-CEO Sarah Wood has provided for the last 10 years.


“We’ve been talking to brands about the importance of creating ads that are content in their own right: ads that people want to watch or share,” Wood, who leads the marketing technology company focused on social video advertising, told Nate Lanxon. She was speaking with Lanxon, Bloomberg’s Head of European Technology News, in front of the Bloomberg Business Innovators 2016 at Bloomberg’s European headquarters. “These ads [would] bring so much value that you feel compelled to share them in your networks and distribute them in a very social – by which we mean non-interrupted, non-invasive – way.”

Her advice echoes Lanxon’s comments at the IAB UK Digital Upfronts 2015, in which he specifically called on the mobile advertising industry to be more innovative before people turned on ad blockers.

“We are at a turning point in the industry with ad blocking on mobile… I don’t know if that would have happened if the ads had been really good on mobile in the first place,” he told The Drum.

How many people have started using ad blockers?

  • In the U.S., the number of people using ad blockers grew by 48%
  • In the U.K., the number of people using ad blockers grew by 82%
  • Across Europe, the number of people using ad-blocking technology varies – in Germany, it was 25.3% of web users
  • Across Asia-Pacific, the number varies too, with Australia at 18%, Indonesia at 7% and India at 2%

(Source: Research by Adobe and PageFair, June 2015)

To create this share-worthy content, brands can benefit from technology and innovation. For example, the Bloomberg Business Innovators includes Qubit, which provides analyses of online and offline customer experiences, and Signal Media, which provides real-time brand or industry tracking using machine learning tools. For brands to overcome the consumer’s need for ad blocking, however, Wood suggested smart technology is only half the battle.

“If you create better content and then can distribute it in a smart way, that’s a very powerful combination. Just having smart tech: it’s not enough. Just having the great content: it’s not enough. You need both parts,” Wood said.

The inaugural Bloomberg Business Innovators 2016 brings together the people in the U.K. who are changing how people in the country live, work and think. The list, compiled by a panel of expert judges from finance, technology and social enterprise, features over 50 business leaders who are innovating at speed and who embody the vibrancy and diversity of the UK business scene. Follow the discussion on Twitter via #UKInnovators.