Agencies Point Finger At Programmatic, Say It Contributes To Ad-Blocking

For the most part, advertisers agree that programmatic ad-serving and buying supports growth in online automation. However, industry agency experts believe the "emperor's new clothes" need to button up processes to support a tighter fit.

James Harris, chief digital officer at media agency Carat Global, believes programmatic has been somewhat guilty of throwing ads at people and pushing the industry back to the days of the pop-up advertisements, when many predicted the end of online advertising.

"Programmatic sits at 1.0, which is about hitting people many times, because they're in an audience pool," Harris says. "Brands need to look for the signal from consumers telling them it's the appropriate time to serve an ad."

Harris says the industry isn't taking advantage of programmatic technology in the best way possible. Others have the same belief. The advertising industry remains on track to lose more than $21.8 billion in global revenue due to blocked advertisements in 2015 -- rising to $41.4 billion in 2016, according to a study from PageFair and Adobe.

Programmatic, along with other factors, continues to contribute to the rise in ad blocking. "The unfortunate side of programmatic is the art hasn't caught up to the science," says Chris Tuff, EVP and director of partnerships at agency 22squared. "You have to become a welcome intruder, and brands need to blend in to stand out, especially on mobile."

Trying to figure out what to wear on his morning run, Tuff logs on to the Weather Channel and scrolls down to the hourly forecast. On the third swipe of the thumb, he hits the dreaded click-to-call display banner, which automatically dials the number, nearly waking his wife. Scenarios like this one make Tuff, an advertising exec, want to download a browser-based ad blocking plug-in.

The industry needs to embrace ad blocking as a signal that mobile display, pre-roll video and other types of ad units are broken, Tuff says -- suggesting that brands will use more content and native advertising in response to the rise of ad blocking.  

Tuff says the industry needs to create better content and embrace native advertising. Publishers should look into co-producing content and advertisements. He also said engines should go back to their roots of relying more on search engine optimization.

12 comments about "Agencies Point Finger At Programmatic, Say It Contributes To Ad-Blocking".
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  1. Steve Baldwin from Didit, September 21, 2015 at 3:38 p.m.

    "You have to become a welcome intruder..."

    This is a contradiction in terms. We're going to have to all do a wee bit better if we're actually going to think our way out of this box canyon.

  2. jack Brown from BDAI, September 21, 2015 at 3:58 p.m.

    It's more about the quality of the ads than delivery system.    We lead the Horse to water you make him drink.  

  3. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), September 21, 2015 at 5:19 p.m.

    That's rich: first agencies tell us to do more digital and programmatic, then they blame programmatic for ad blocking?

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 21, 2015 at 5:26 p.m.

    Come, again? How do cosumers "signal" brands when they want to see their ads? if the brands ---or their computers---can figure this one out, I guess that the ads will, indeed, be "welcome intruders". Amazing comments, guys, simply amazing!

  5. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, September 21, 2015 at 9:24 p.m.

    The comments here are interesting and welcome, but I have been covering automation since 2000, beginning with the electronics industry raw materials supply chain, and I can tell you that the programmatic systems connecting ad serving and bidding in the online advertising industry are equivalent to a one-month old infant. The ad industry has lots to learn. These ad systems are silos similar to media channels that one day will connect to each other, and replenishment systems for raw materials at manufacturers like Ford and Chevy.  I've been writing about this for years in various articles. Brands "should do more digital and programmatic," Maarten, but understand the limitations you have now because the systems are so new.

  6. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, September 22, 2015 at 9:02 a.m.

    I think this is a bit of a stretch to say agencies are blaming programmatic for ad blocking.  I can see the premise, but please draw the conclusion and show me some facts.  Whether there was programmatic buying going on or not, the ads would still be served - maybe they'd be house ads, maybe they'd be google's text ads - whatever.   The publishers provide the landscape, and programmatic makes it easier for the agencies to buy.  What this article seems to say is that programmatic creative is not matching audiences needs, and therefore, someome might block the ad if it's not relevant.   Still a stretch for the article - but let's focus on the audience and matching the creative rather than the buying/selling technology.    And now I know I'm rambling, but the mobile fat finger click is a stretch as well.  The technology is already there for click and swipe so an automated click to call does not happen...  That's not a programmatic issue - that's user error and poor technology implementation combined.  The sum of my ramblings is that people still don't get the all inclusive word "programmatic" so they draw vague comparisons without data and reference the emperor's new clothes if we don't buy into their "concerns".

  7. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, September 22, 2015 at 10:37 a.m.

    Michael, yes, programmatic makes it easier for agencies to buy. The industry is doing the best it can with the knowledge and the technology. Even if we take programmatic out of the picture, the industry has a lot of growing up to do. Brands and agencies still cannot target ads correctly. I still research items online, put them in a shopping cart in some retailers store intending to buy. Maybe I buy online; maybe I don't. If I don't buy online, and instead buy in the physical store, I'm still seeing ads for that same item following me around the Web three months later. HUGE waste of money. Show me an ad for a complimentary product, not the one I just bought in the store. I realize the industry does the best it can, and technology needs to grow up, but I feel like I have been writing about that same problem for years. Mobile apps should help because you're always signed in and it's easier to track purchases. This is why Facebook does so well, but even on Facebook. I still see ads for things I purchased in the store for several months.

  8. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360 replied, September 22, 2015 at 12:48 p.m.


    I've been developing or directing systems implementation for a range of industries for forty years, so I've been able to watch technology improve as it matures over time. The ad industry is a relative newcomer. I agree with you, the ad industry technology is in its early stages. But just as the systems in other industries have gotten better, so it will be with advertising, just the latest industry in line to benefit from the proper application of technology to improving productivity.

  9. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, September 22, 2015 at 1:49 p.m.

    This year has been a year of the Emperor's New Clothes for Digital.  Viewability. Fraud. Ad-Blocking. And what is the real nakedness of this article is the spurious reach claims for Digital.  Digital has pulled in dollars from many other media based upon frequency-capping and the ability to control ad-serving to optimize reach. Well, haha.  With programmatic and the lack of view into exaclty which audiences we are buying we are torturing consumers with frequency.  Another item of clothing down. 

  10. Benny Radjasa from Armonix Digital, Inc., September 22, 2015 at 4:29 p.m.

    Haven't we beaten this subject matter to death by now?  But I need to say this.  If you like something and consumed it, then pay for it.  Bypassing built in payment is digital shoplifting. 

    Everyone has the right to earn a living, ad blockers prevent this.  Ad blockers block all IPs and/or domains from known ad servers.  Which also means it blocks all form of advertising from the ad server that it is blocking.

    Banners - Block!
    Sponsorship - Block!
    Native ads -  Block!
    Rich Media (Video, expandable, overlay) - Block!

    If you don't like a product don't consume it.  There are so much content and competing sites out there, pick one that you can live with.  But if you find a way to bypass payment, you know what you are.

  11. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, September 23, 2015 at 10:37 a.m.

    At least we are finally being honest about intrusion. And it's hard to imagine that it's ever welcome. Yes, programmatic contributes, but the real problem (intrusion) has been there all along. It wasn't until the media user could imagine a world without it, that intrusion became a war worth fighting.

  12. jack Brown from BDAI, September 23, 2015 at 12:07 p.m.

    Dorothy, to your point "With programmatic and the lack of view into exactly which audiences we are buying". We have an app for that "Digital Audience Tracking (DAT) Platform it is the best resource for fine tuning as well as expanding creative appeal. Bottom line, we can lead the horse to water and help you make him drink.

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