The Ad Block Crisis

When people think of online advertising, the first thing that comes to mind is probably those little pesky rectangular buggers that pop-up on their screen, hiding the content they’re trying to read. Others may remember a time they encountered the surprisingly random video clips that automatically play when attempting to view the news or check the weather. And this is precisely why Ad Blocking behavior has grown larger with each passing year. It’s the repetitive and intrusive nature of these ads that drive consumers to install ad blocking plug-ins onto their web browsers.

According to PageFair and Adobe’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, many respondents reported that they blocked ads because they believed their personal information was at risk, and because the quantity of ads exceeded their accepted tolerance levels (Source). As a result, most of the people who did block ads did so with extreme prejudice, removing 100% of all ads from the web. Spurred on by this sentiment, in just the past year, “ad block usage in the United States grew 48%...increasing to 45 million…during Q2 2015” (PageFair).

Which is a huge problem for not just advertisers, but publishers as well.

Source: Nerd's Magazine

The Rise of the Ad Blocker

Just recently, Adblock Plus by Eyeo GymbH launched their new “Acceptable Ads Platform” which is a service where certain ads that meet the system’s acceptable ad guidelines are able to bypass AdBlock Plus’s restrictions… at a price, of course.

The aim of this new option is (publicly at least) to revolutionize the advertising industry by having publishers transition from the disruptive and bothersome ads that would deter users from a website or video and towards a more moderate and “acceptable” approach to advertising. If you’re listening to their logic, the idea is that by self-sacrificing now, and modifying ads to make them more palatable to the targeted audience, advertisers and publishers may be able to prevent themselves from being tuned out entirely.

Adblock Plus’s co-founder Till Faider believes that a better ad experience will lead to more users tolerating more ads, as long as those ads don’t interfere with their web browsing experience. He also contends that publishers will be able to generate more revenue through this potential opportunity that did not previously exist before (Source).  

Critical Reception for Adblock Plus’s Plan

While some publishers are excited to jump at the opportunity to display their ads to a previously inaccessible audience, others are more than a little disgruntled at what they see as a thinly veiled form of extortion.

Many publishers believe that ad blockers such as Adblock Plus offer little actual value, even before the platform decided to allow some ads for a fee. In fact, some publishers seem to view the platform as no less than a detriment to creation expression and society at large, especially  since the increased use of ad blockers “resulted in an estimated $5.8B in blocked revenue during 2014. It is expected to cost $10.7B in 2015 and $20.3B in 2016” (PageFair).

By severely limiting the number of ads being shown to the public, some publishers have complained that ad blockers are impeding the free-flowing nature of ideas and innovation, as well as artificially restricting  consumer purchasing options.

On the other hand, proponents of Adblock Plus’s new ad exchange believe this could be the catalyst required to reach a new, much more useful  advertising standard. Publishers have been feeling the pressure from consumers to make less distracting and page-obstructing ads, but to no avail. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau’s report, Ad Blocking: Who Blocks Ads, Why and How to Win Them Back, “all users, but especially consumers using ad blockers, want uninterrupted, quick browsing and a streamlined user experience” (Source).

The same report also mentions that ad blocking users believe that sites are not just easier to navigate without ads, but also faster (an important concern, especially in the age of mobile). By implementing excessively flashy animations and auto-playing video clips, publishers who have not adopted the new guidelines may end up driving consumers away and inadvertently persuading many more consumers to take the step of installing ad blockers on their machines.

As a result, more industry leaders are advocating for new ads that optimize the user experience rather than hinder it, including practices such as Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads guidelines and the Internet Advertising Bureau’s LEAN Principles.

The Agency Response

At the Agencies, teams and departments such as Ad Operations should also help address consumers complaints about ads by sharpening their audience targeting precision and content relevancy. By ensuring that ads are only shown to appropriate audiences, ads are less likely to be off-putting, and more likely to be appreciated, or at least not actively protested against. Better targeting methodologies allows advertisers to  increase interest from potential consumers, rather than driving them away with off-the-mark products.

For example, in PageFair’s report, the data shows that gaming and social networking website users tended to ad block more often than any other industry. Furthermore, men between the ages of 18-34 tended to use more ad blockers than their female counterparts. In light of this information, Agency’s should have a plan for catering to these users desires and feature only limited ads displayed in less obtrusive ways.

Campaigns adjusted to show ads more effeciently, produce placements specific to the targeted audience, and running with budgets allocated to more lucrative prospects are likely to be the future norm. If publishers don’t take note of these suggestions, they could stand to losemuch more than consumer good-will, and may start facing restricted revenue streams.

With the advent of Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads Platform, users will be able to start choosing which ads they want to see. While this may lead to industry growing pains, it’s a good change long-term because failing to produce a better advertising experience risks the nuclear option:  users blocking all ads completely and indiscriminately.

Tech savvy audiences are already demanding a better user experience and negative sentiment for obtrusive ads is only likely to grow in the months and years ahead. While consumer complaints are likely to be ignored by some industry hard liners, those advertisers and publishers who do take note of changing consumer demands now and adjust their methods accordingly are likely to find better prospects for long-term success.