Ad Blocking: What Can Be Done About This Theft of Information and Services?

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Adotas is pleased to offer a Q&A with Tony Chen, VP of Product at PlaceIQ, on coping with ad blocking.


Adotas:
Exactly what is ad blocking?

Chen:
Ad blocking, regardless of whether it’s desktop or mobile, usually comes in the form of an add-on which sits on the device as an extension to the browser. This extension intercepts calls that your browser or app is trying to make to an ad server and blocks the call from occurring. Essentially, the tool looks for traffic going to specific URLs/IP addresses and doesn’t allow the ad to be served, instead replacing it with a black or white box.

Adotas: It seems to us that ad blocking violates the implicit agreement between user and publisher: Access to content is free because ads are delivered to the user and that funds the site. Ad blocking also deprives advertisers of exposure and revenue. Essentially, the user is stealing the site information. How do you see it?

Chen: Ad blocking technology can seriously affect digital publishers and content providers. As more and more ads are blocked, the mobile app developer and/or publisher earns less and less revenue. And as noted, marketers and advertisers have reduced exposure to potential customers. The irony is that people who use ad-blocking software are forcing publishers and mobile ad developers to create ever more ads to make up for lost revenue.

Adotas:
Are there ways for publishers to get around ad blocking technology? Or will this simply irritate an ad-blocking user?

Chen: While there are ways for publishers to circumvent ad-blocking technology in the near-term, it is not an ideal strategy.

Publishers could install software on their content servers to detect if a user installed ad-blocking technology. Then, they could hold out on delivering content altogether until consumers agree to un-install their ad blocking technology.

This kind of solution isn’t practical however, because the consumer may find alternative content and never revisit the publisher’s website and ad blockers are constantly finding ways to circumvent ad-blocking detection technologies.

Adotas: What are some first steps advertisers and marketers can take to help combat ad blocking?

Chen: In order to counteract the effects of ad blockers, advertisers could turn to digital publishers that have implemented a subscription-based model, like The New York Times, or they could leverage native advertising, which is on the rise specifically because it has such high consumer engagement. This gets around the ad blocking issue a little bit because often users don’t realize native ads are actually ads, nor does ad-blocking technology. However, paywalls and native ads come with their own business-related caveats.

Another way to combat ad blockers is if the industry as a whole makes it a point to create more relevant, personalized ads that consumers won’t feel the need to block. Improving overall experience and making ads less intrusive, while also being more transparent about the value exchange that’s occurring, will help alleviate the hostility some users feel toward advertisements. This however requires more money, time and resources, in addition to a more united front.

Adotas: Could you recommend some long-term strategies to help marketers and advertisers capture consumers’ attention – with or without ad blocking technology standing in the way?

Chen: Native ads are one way for marketers to sidestep ad blocking, as long as the brands that use them can keep up up a steady stream of engaging, new content. Also, publishers can diversify their revenue and/or push out more gated content, so they aren’t subject to significant revenue loss with the influx of ad blockers. Longer term, the industry should come up with a solution through groups like the DAA, IAB and NAI, as lone publishers are unlikely to solve the problem all by themselves.

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