How to Approach Adblocking in 2016

Adblocking is still the bane of many publishers and advertisers’ lives, with the rising software use set to cost the industry $27bn (£18bn) in lost revenues by 2020. It’s certainly a big deal in the UK, where adoption has increased by 82% in the last year.

Two bodies been trying to counteract this threat are anti-adblocking solution PageFair and Digital Content Next. They have been hosting a series of round talks from late 2015 onward with industry leaders including Google, Mozilla, the European Commission and UK government, to look at what can be done to improve the situation for those affected.

Seven recommendations

The seven recommendations reflect a majority opinion from the stakeholders at the most recent meeting at MEC Global in New York:

  • On the blocked web, the user must have immediate tools to reject and complain about advertising
  • Rather than restore all ads on the blocked web, only a limited number of premium advertising slots should be restored. This will make a better impact for brands, clean up the user experience and incentivise better creative
  • Blocked web may provide the opp to establish a new form of above the line advertising
  • Contextual targeting can be used on the blocked web to establish ad relevance if other forms of tracking are not practical or desirable
  • On the blocked web, where third party tracking is largely blocked, publishers can create new value by engaging with their users to elicit volunteered data
  • Measuring advertising success on the blocked web with broad top-of-funnel metrics may incentivise buyers to focus on value rather than cheapness. A second benefit is that such metrics (example: engagement time) can be unified across digital and nondigital media
  • On the web as a whole there should be a maximum page load time standard that publishers and advertisers both commit to. The growing hazard of adblocking may incentivise this

Head of ecosystem at PageFair Dr Johnny Ryan recently blogged about the recommendations, saying the blocked web created a new opportunity for publishers, rather than being solely to their detriment.

“Taken together, these points give publishers an opportunity to sustain themselves beyond adblocking, which will bring new value to advertisers while respecting the user,” he wrote.

The web has become so cluttered that brands must scream over each other on a page to cut through. This has prompted a consumer backlash

The opportunity Dr Ryan also mentioned, however, was that of a whole new, ‘uncluttered’ area of the internet, where publishers could use technology that ad blockers can’t circumvent, to display ads. He said it was a “new and separate opportunity to respond to blockers with contextual targeting that does not track users, and to communicate on a new and uncluttered area online”.

Marketing Tech News spoke to Dr Ryan about the recommendations and the moral implication of exploiting this opportunity. He said there’s a need to keep publishers afloat and save the open web.

Save the open web

“The mechanism that has supported the open web for twenty years is starting to break down. We are focussed on protecting the future of the open Web and on re-establishing a fair deal between users and publishers. We need to have a way to support publishers and to better respect consumers if we are going to save  the open Web in the future. If this sounds too stark reflect on USENET. The web can die. I believe that it should be saved,” he said.

In response to adblocking, some publishers have chosen to put up adblock walls. However, these only lead to a “short term gain” according to Dr Ryan.

“It turns away 60-90% of adblock users from the site. Clearly it would be better to let these users onto one’s site and show them a limited number of respectful ads,” he told Marketing Tech News.

The rise in adblocking software in general, Dr Ryan adds, is down to ad practices such as snooping on users’ data, ads jumping around their screens, slowing their machines, using up expensive data, and exposing the computer to security risks.

“But also, the web has become so cluttered that brands must scream over each other on a page to cut through. This has prompted a consumer backlash, and it has also not worked well for publishers or for brands.”


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