The answers to these questions are obvious. So why, when consumers are blocking the serving of ads at these alarming rates, is the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau still employed?
The IAB will say in defense that the ad-blocking issue is over-hyped, and then point to the annual digital ad revenue number of $50 billion as a way to dismiss any concerns. The big lie there, of course, is that 43% of that total comes from search, which the IAB has had zero influence on -- other than cashing Google’s membership check.
Here’s the truth: The online display advertising industry is a catastrophic failure because the IAB has condoned and promoted publishing behavior that has led to this ad-blocking epidemic. Ad-blockers have given consumers a voice in the online ad world -- and that voice is loud, it is clear and it is filled with venom.
Track our behavior without our consent and serve “targeted” ads that make us feel stalked.
Serve us ads that cover up the inferior content we read mostly to kill time.
Force auto-play video ads down our throats, so we have to race to find our mute button.
Serve us flashy ads that slow down the page load.
Allow anyone to buy ads through exchanges, so our computers get infected with malware.
Serve us too many damn ads on a single page of content.
Ad blocking is not a universal media problem -- it’s an online advertising problem. TV viewers give television ads a shot -- just ask Geico, IBM and Direct TV. Moviegoers don’t sit outside a theater when ads are playing. Magazine readers don’t turn away from ads when they turn the page. Even radio ads get a listen. Ad blocking is an online advertising problem we created -- and one we deserve.
A successful publishing formula has a pecking order. Consumer needs are paramount to those of the advertiser. When this relationship is constructed that way, consumers accept advertising as part of this arranged marriage. Instead, the IAB has promoted and supported ad policies that put advertisers on a pedestal and the needs of consumers in the servants' quarters. Blocking ads is the consumer’s way of asking for a divorce.
In a few weeks, Randall Rothenberg will stand up in front of crowds during the MIXX Conference. He will talk about all that has been accomplished, and will likely point to new challenges like ad blocking as blasphemous, and explain how technology will win this war. He will wave to the crowd as if he’s won America’s Cup -- when in reality, he is the captain of the Titanic.
The irony of all ironies: At some point, the only ads that won’t be blocked will be impressions served to non-human traffic. That’s when our industry will reach its pinnacle of selling clients utter bullshit.
Ad blocking is neither a phase nor a trend. It’s online display advertising’s destiny -- and the most pathetic part is, we chose it.