Ad-Blocking: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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Q: eMarketer says that more than 25% of internet users will block ads this year. These new numbers from eMarketer come a year after Apple announced the ability for users to block ads on iOS 9. How has the industry responded in the past year?

A: One year later, I think the ad industry is largely still somewhere in the ‘anger, denial and bargaining’ stages when it comes to dealing with ad blocking. In the months following Apple’s announcement, ad blocking went from a fringe issue to the focus of the whole industry’s ire. First, many wasted time blaming the ad blockers – and some are still wasting their time with this. Now, publishers have focused their energies on workarounds like blocking the users of ad blocking, instead of looking at yourself in the mirror, assuming responsibility for what the industry has come to and tackling the problem head on.

Q: Why do you think users are so eager to block ads – both on mobile and desktop?

A: It all comes down to the user experience. In the users’ eyes, the experiential cost of advertising has become unacceptable, especially on such an intimate device as mobile. Most forms of mobile advertising interrupt and slow down users’ mobile web sessions, not to mention eat up data plans and battery life. Today’s consumers know their attention is valuable and they won’t give it away in exchange for interruptive advertising, especially when they’re accustomed to unlimited free content at their fingertips. A brand has to hold the promise of a unique or additive user experience in order for people to actually engage.

Q: eMarketer said of the report, ‘the best way for the industry to tackle this problem is to deliver compelling ad experiences that consumer won’t want to block.’ What can advertisers be doing differently on this front?

A: While some have proposed better creative as the solution, that’s only half the battle and frankly the easier part. I believe the industry is past the point of winning users over simply with flashier, funnier ads on mobile devices. The delivery is the second half, where so many advertisers are failing right now, and what users have become fed up with. The majority of ad inventory is just broken on a fundamental level, because of antiquated and disruptive formats. Advertisers and publishers need to stop serving ads at every possible opportunity because they value CPM over effectiveness. Just because you can serve an ad doesn’t mean you should. They need to start thinking like a user and prioritizing users’ needs and adding value to the user experience.

Q: What developments in mobile ad blocking do you foresee in the next year?

A: eMarketer’s data clearly tells us ad blocking adoption will continue to rise and cost the industry billions. However, there are already some leaders in the advertising industry facing up to the very real user experience problem and galvanizing others to do so as well. In the next year, the industry will have to navigate who’s responsible for the next step: making the changes necessary to mitigate ad blocking. There will surely be some finger pointing, but I think we could see real change coming from key innovators who will set a higher standard for advertising delivery and in turn see higher levels of user receptivity to mobile advertising.

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