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What Does Yahoo’s Ad Block Scandal Mean for Email Marketers?

ad block, ad block scandal, Brad Van Der Woerd, brand relationship, Branded content, Email marketing, high quality content, Marketing, Pr, Public relations, restricted email access, YesmailBy Brad Van Der Woerd, Director of Market Intelligence & Deliverability, Yesmail

Late last year, dozens of Yahoo Mail users were blocked from their email accounts because they had turned on their ad blockers, and many of these users took to social media and guest blogs to vent their frustrations. Though Yahoo claims this was just a test for a small group of users, these developments only add more fuel to the ad blocking fire, especially for email marketers. While many brands justifiably worry that giving consumers the power to voluntarily block branded content will limit their reach to target audiences, Yahoo’s approach did very little to address the problem.

By restricting access to those who have turned on ad blockers, the email giant simply irritated both email users and brands. Email users understandably do not want to be locked out of their accounts without warning or permission, and marketers need consumers to be checking their emails in order for marketing efforts to be successful. Ultimately what matters from the standpoint of both the email provider and the marketer is keeping the user happy and engaged.

So the solution to the ad blocking problem is not to threaten consumers with restricted email access, but rather to provide them with high quality content that makes them want to receive marketing emails. To truly engage with customers in a way that motivates them to maintain a relationship with your brand, it’s important to keep the content simple and conversational, avoid mass communications and think mobile.


Motivating consumers to voluntarily receive marketing emails is easy when you provide them with content they actually want to consume. So, it’s important to keep it simple. Consumers are often so overwhelmed by marketing emails that a complex email that does little to stand out will not cut it. Provide straightforward content within an uncluttered layout to motivate users to pay attention.

Additionally, recent studies have shown that marketers only have a few seconds to catch the user’s attention with an email communication, meaning that marketers must put some thought into the subject line. Marketers should strive to ensure the purpose of their email is quickly articulated within each communication—this is especially the case with users viewing on mobile devices. Motivate consumers to want to receive your emails by getting to the point and keeping it simple.


Email marketers should take consumers’ desire to block ads as a sign that they are no longer responsive to mass advertisements. Instead, email messages should read more like person-to-person communication and less like a robotic advertisement.

This means that email marketers need to personalize the content. One of the most basic ways to do this is my incorporating the user’s name within the email. Brands can also refer to recent purchases or abandoned shopping carts to ensure that the products within the ad are relevant to each user’s interests. Regardless of the approach, marketers should make users feel like individuals rather than just a number on an email blast list.

Think mobile

While it’s common for consumers to check email on mobile devices throughout the day, it’s unclear how many people are downloading ad blocking capabilities on mobile devices as the ability to do so on a smartphone is a relatively new advancement. This means that mobile is now more than ever one of the most effective ways to reach consumers with marketing content. In fact, the Yesmail Lifecycle Marketing Q3 Email Marketing Compass found that smartphone engagement grew by 13.4 percent from 2014, and revenue derived from mobile marketing emails is up 10 percent.

To reach consumers who may have disengaged on desktop devices, marketers should focus on improving mobile email strategies through personalization, responsive design and location-based triggered email deals. A consumer should never have difficulty reading or engaging with a marketing email on a mobile device, and brands should reach on-the-go customers with timely deals based on geographic location. The right mobile content can actually motivate consumers to want to receive branded emails.

Yahoo’s ad block scandal proved that consumers are ultimately in control. Punishing consumers who choose to turn on ad blocking software will only perpetuate the issue. Instead, marketers need to accept that consumers have control over the marketing content they receive via email and should focus on motivating them to actually want it. This means that content needs to be simple and straightforward, personalized and optimized for mobile. The age of the consumer is here, and marketers need to cater to this norm or risk being blocked.

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