Are Ad Blockers Killing The Digital Economy? Views From Web Summit
At the Web Summit conference in Dublin, industry experts discuss the rise of ad blockers and how marketers should respond. Columnist Matt Clough is on hand to bring you all the details.
“Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again” wrote marketer Graeme Wood for the Institute of Practioners in Advertising (IPA) Social project, and nowhere has this statement rung truer than in the debate surrounding ad blockers.
The internet has given advertisers an unprecedented number of options for how and where they’re able to deliver ads, and it’s enabled pinpoint accuracy for targeting and measurement that is simply unavailable on other media.
However, just as the internet has offered almost endless possibilities and ad revenues to match, it also offers users the power of revolt and, in recent times, revolt they have.
The 2015 Ad Blocking Report from PageFair and Adobe details just how pervasive ad blocking technology has become, with publishers losing an estimated $22 billion this year and ad blocker adoption rising globally by 41 percent. (Note: PageFair makes anti-ad-blocker solutions for publishers.)
Clearly, ad blocking technology is here to stay; just as browser makers moved to introduce automatic blockers on pop-ups several years ago, it now seems that a similar fate will befall the banner ad, which has gone from enjoying click-through rates of up to 5 percent to being a much-maligned nuisance in the eyes of many users.
The topic of ad blockers was on the lips of many of the speakers at this year’s edition of the Web Summit conference in Dublin.
What The Experts Are Saying
PageFair CEO Sean Blanchfield believes that while ad blocking adoption has been driven by poor standards of advertising, many users don’t appreciate the ramifications that the loss of ad revenue has on publishers, which will ultimately impact users as quality content becomes less economically viable.
Tim Schumacher of Eyeo, the publishers of AdBlockPlus, concurs, stating that their technology doesn’t attack the core principle of advertising, just the poor, intrusive tactics that users are looking to avoid.
Kargo’s Harry Kargman identified three key aspects of online advertising that are spurring users to install ad blockers: monotony stemming from repetition of the same ads, a lack of transparency on data usage and a general dissatisfaction with the amount of advertising users are asked to experience in order to access what are often relatively short pieces of content.
Marketers and advertisers alike must use the rise of ad blockers as valuable user feedback. They then must take that feedback and develop new ways to display ads in a more holistic, unobtrusive manner.
Reimagining The Digital Advertising Landscape
Shenan Reed of MEC Global stated her belief that the “next revolution” in advertising will come with the development of a “rapid-fire” creative-building model that will enable marketers to produce enough creative to keep ads varied and avoid the problem of monotony identified by Kargman.
Kargman himself spoke of his vision for “user initiated” advertisements, which the user opts into in order to support publishers, rather than a culture in which ads intrude and the user must then opt out.
Speaking from the publishers’ point of view, The Onion CEO Michael McAvoy stressed the importance of quality advertising, with the end goal being that marketers produce work that is as equally compelling as the content that the user is there to consume.
Some are already putting into practice new ways of approaching the publisher-advertiser relationship and offering users a better overall experience.
News and culture publication The Malcontent has adopted an alternative model, offering a single sponsor a monthly slot, rather than placing display advertising within content or elsewhere on the site.
Editor-in-chief Mic Wright explained that he was inspired to innovate due to his worry that the loss of ad revenues would eventually “silence the voices of journalists.”
“Journalism has been heading for a crisis for years,” said Wright. “The advantage [The Malcontent has] of starting fresh means there’s no need to change our model.”
The digital economy as we know it may be in its death throes, but with ad blockers necessitating innovation, the future is still bright for advertisers, publishers and users willing to embrace new technologies and models.