How This Agency Used Ad Blockers to Recruit the Kind of Creatives It Wanted to Hire

Embracing the problem instead of denying it

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Generally speaking, a challenge that disrupts your business model is a chance to invent whole new ones. The Internet—and all the disruption-enabling goodies it's brought with it, like ad blocking—has proven no different … though many brands and publishers are still trying to sort their Rubik's Cubes out. 

But sometimes a different perspective is sufficient to bring you closer to solving the problem than others. In the case study below, Belgian ad agency Boondoggle explains how it used adblockers to recruit new employees. 

"Everyone hates online ads. Except for advertisers and publishers. They hate adblockers," the video begins. But even then, "10% of advertising people use adblockers themselves."

Can we see a show of hands? Just kidding. We know you all use them.

For its most recent recruitment push, the agency created a special banner equipped with an ad-blocker-detecting plugin. (An ad-blocker-detecting plugin? you say. Yeah, these guys don't fool around. See how their video is all text? That's because it was made for a Facebook audience, where videos autoplay without sound. It's already gotten nearly 6,000 views, which isn't small potatoes for a Belgian brand.) 

Then they bought space on all major Belgian advertising news sites. 

The banner read, "You block ads, even if you work in advertising? Then maybe you're the person we're looking for. Join us and let's create campaigns that are really useful to people." Users were then sent to a list of Boondoggle job opportunities. 

Everybody's freaked out about AdBlock. Last month, winning the award for Most Alienating Service Brand of the Day, Yahoo! admitted it is testing ways to block AdBlock users from certain services, including locking them out of their own inboxes (a great way to remind people that we own nothing in the free economy, by the way). But in addition to all the efforts AdBlock is making to calm the industry down—like offering adblock-related analytics and doing retargeting business with Criteo—there's a lot of good writing out there that explains why people (including ad people) use them in the first place.

Most ads are annoying, ugly and suck. They pop up. They block content. They chase people around, and use data that we didn't sell them to retarget us. 

Ad people who recognize this problem, and behave like users do, have the chance to make this better. They're best positioned to create work that innovates past blocking technology—and, more importantly, create ads they actually like. (Because if ad-blocking ad people like them, we're fairly optimistic regular people will, too. The operative word is fairly—but they do have a better shot at this than pious ad folk who deny the problem exists.) 

At the close of its video, Boondoggle says it's looking for "ad people who don't believe in bombing people with ads," people who'd rather find brand and design solutions that innovate around those challenges. It cheekily ends, "Thank you, adblockers."

Thank you, Boondoggle. If more agencies and brands thought like you do, maybe South Park would hate us less.

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.